The Wife’s Tale, by Lori Lansens, is a lovely book about awakening, self-acceptance, and independence. It tells the story of Mary Gooch, a morbidly obese woman whose husband disappears on the eve of their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, leaving a considerable amount of money in their bank account and a letter saying, “I need time to think.”
Even though she’s never even used a cell phone or bank card, Mary begins following the very tenuous trails her husband has left. Travelling farther than she’s ever gone before, from small-town Ontario to Los Angeles, Mary expects good from most people, and encounters surprisingly good people wherever she goes. With each new step, she exercises both real and metaphorical muscles she had never previously used. The scales fall from her eyes as she gains insight from both large and small events. And with her exertions, and a severe loss of appetite that seems subliminally connected to her grief at her husband’s disappearance, she learns to value herself and begins to lose weight.
The reader rejoices with Mary as she gains all her insights and begins to heal from her husband’s action and from wounds she never even knew she’d had all her life. The book is an uplifting story of encouragement, about taking flight.
The only thing that makes me uneasy is wondering if overweight people are somehow going to feel a bit judged, whether or not Ms. Lansens intends it. That’s hard to answer, because questions about being fat are so controversial in society, in a way perhaps that questions about anorexia would not be. Society thinks that what applies to one fat person must apply to all, and people with weight problems have been subject to this attitude for so long that they tend to defend against it whether it’s there or not.
Even if, in this one case, the weight issue is more about Mary’s lack of self-acceptance than lack of self-control, it’s difficult to write about the personal learning experiences of an overweight person and not have them viewed as representing all fat people. You wouldn’t automatically assume that a trauma that resulted in one woman’s obsessive compulsive disorder would be the same as that for another woman with OCD, yet while society can distinguish between these two women, it doesn’t seem capable of making such distinctions when it comes to weight.
If, however, you can make this distinction, you will love observing how Mary grows and learns. And ultimately, you will rejoice in her healing, and will be uplifted and encouraged as, I think, Ms. Lansens did intend.
(Thanks so much to the Library Thing Early Reviewers program, for this book.)