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The Wife by Meg Wolitzer January 31, 2007

Posted by pvccbookclub in Current Discussion.

Joe and Joan Castleman are on their way to Helsinki. Joe is about to receive a prestigious literary prize and Joan is plotting how to leave him. Joan has played the part of adoring wife for forty years and has decided that the presentation of Joe’s award in Helsinki will be her last appearance. She is tired of living in her husband’s shadow, of supporting his achievements, while subjugating her own talents.

The Wife gives us a glimpse into the disparity between the public and private faces of marriage. Often, unions that seem to be “good” marriages, turn out to be hiding ugly truths. The author, Meg Wolitzer, tells this tale with warmth and humor. Her comic timing, lightens this otherwise, dark tale.

Questions to consider for discussion:

1) Consider the themes of gender and identity in the novel. How do you think Joan would have been received in the literary world if the books had been published under her name?

2) The reader sees Joe Castleman through Joan’s eyes, discuss the author’s portrayal of his character, do you think he is presented fairly? Does he have any redeeming features?

3) Examine the other wives who appear throughout the novel, how is Joan different from them? In what ways is she similar?

4) Does the truth behind Joe Castleman’s success make you feel disappointed in Joan’s character or do you consider her in some ways to be a feminist hero?

5) The Wife raises some interesting questions about the nature of partnership, discuss the relationship between this husband and wife, are there times in the book when you see them as a happy couple? Why do you think Joan waits so long before she decides to leave her husband?

6) Discuss the twist at the end of the novel; does Joan’s revelation come as a surprise to you? Or do you think there are points in the book where the author hints at the truth?