“I guess I just get angry that people can have lots of relationships that no one would blink an eye at, but because mine have formal labels the get listed against me somehow, and the get lumped together as if they’re all equal, but they’re not.” p. 101*
Title: The Ninth Wife
Author: Amy Stolls
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Source: Review copy from publisher
When she starts dating Rory, Bess thinks she’s finally found her future husband. But his proposal is a bit overshadowed by the news that he has been married 8 times. Naturally, she is a bit apprehensive. So she sets out on a cross country road trip with her grandparents, her gay neighbor, his dog, and a mannequin named Peace. Along the way, Bess searches for Rory’s previous wives in hopes of discovering her answer.
The Ninth Wife is a thoughtful look at marriage in today’s world. Each of Rory’s marriages were different. Some lasted longer than others. Some were the result of true love, while some were more done out of convenience. Through each story, through the 65-year marriage of Bess’ grandparents, and through Bess and Rory’s own tale, we see the worry that often goes along with marriage – will this work out? is it inevitably going to end? does s/he really love me?
But The Ninth Wife is about more than marriage, it is about friendship, family, and identity. It is about how we’re all trying to find our place in the world, whether it is next to another or not.
At first I thought this was going to be lighter women’s fiction. But the second half of the story becomes much more serious and thought-provoking. After closing the book, I found mind wandering back to it. It was like Stolls sucked me in with the promise of a lighthearted book and then held me captive when it turned more serious. And I wasn’t disappointed.
The Ninth Wife felt almost like two separate books. In part one, the story alternates chapters between a third person narrative of Bess’ life and how she is falling for Rory and Rory’s first-person tale of his many, many wives. Then, in part two, the story becomes about Bess’ road trip. Rory still has his role, but it is smaller and his first-person narrative is gone. I enjoyed this change halfway through the book – at 496 pages it’s a fairly lengthy novel and the variation kept me on my toes.
Stolls did something interesting with The Ninth Wife that is worth checking out. This book is funny, touching, and full of hope and Bess is a wonderful heroine in her own, unique love story.
*Page numbers refer to the advanced copy and may differ in the published version.