Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Replacement Wife by Eileen Goudge

Rating:

* *

The book's description from the author's website:

Camille Hart, one of Manhattan’s most sought-after matchmakers, has survived more than her fair share of hardships. Her mother died when she was a young girl, leaving her and her sister with an absentee father. Now in her forties, she has already survived cancer once, though the battle revealed just how ill-equipped her husband Edward is to be a single parent. So when doctors tell Camille that her cancer is back—and this time it’s terminal—she decides to put her matchmaking expertise to the test for one final job. Seeking stability for her children and happiness for her husband, Camille sets out to find the perfect woman to replace her when she’s gone.
But what happens when a dying wish becomes a case of “be careful what you wish for”? For Edward and Camille, the stunning conclusion arrives with one last twist of fate that no one saw coming.
I know that most of us readers (if not all) are familiar with the phrase 'stranger than fiction', and in truth, fiction works better when the events in a story are at least somewhat plausible. The Replacement Wife deals with a very serious and very real matter, a disease that kills every day, not only people afflicted with it but also those who loved them, cared for them, depended on them (parents, children, husbands and wives) and in the end had to watch them die. Unfortunately, the author manages, by a weird,  miracle of imagination, to turn all the unhappiness (caused by both the quickly approaching death and by all the mistakes and heavy consequences of the decisions made not only by Camille, but by almost every other person in the novel) into a happily-freaking-ever-after tale that belongs to the world of dreamy and steamy Harlequin romances, not the literary novel The Replacement Wife's author probably wanted it to be. I'm obviously no expert of literary critique but as a devoted reader I do know what I hope to encounter while reading certain types of books. While the first half of the book was promising and held my interest, the second half ruined any good feelings I had for the story by trivializing it with neatly tied, highly improbable turns of events.

The one thing that partly redeemed The Replacement Wife was Ms Goudge's impeccable writing skills and strong character building. Despite the above mentioned flaws, the book reads smoothly and with ease. The major 'players' built in me strong emotions, and whether it was immense dislike, such as towards Camille Hart, whose 'I'm-right-because-I'm-dying-and-you're-not' attitude I couldn't stand or her husband who elicited genuine sympathy from me (despite of his actions), because he really was pushed to the very limits of his love for Camille. All and all, there were very few characters that I felt truly indifferent to.

Even though the ending left me disappointed in the whole book, I must give it credit for a life lesson it imparts. What I took away from this novel, is that, if every action we take has consequences, then we'd better be damn sure we're prepared to pay the price, whatever that may be. And because one really can never be sure of anything, maybe we should stop and think first, and then expand our imagination beyond the unimaginable. Maybe that can spare a few lives from being broken and a few mistakes from being made.

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FTC: I have received The Replacement Wife e-galley from the publisher, Open Road Media via NetGalley.