Another “Wife” Book

The Doctor’s Wife by Elizabeth Brundage

Initially I was surprised by this book— because it starts from the viewpoint of a woman named Lydia, whom I expected to become the person with whom I would most sympathize. That was not to be. (Is this a literary convention the author has just turned on its head— a tendency to start a book with the character with whom we’re meant to identify?) This is one of those books that uses a style I love, in which we get to see various characters’ viewpoints. (I always think of Russell Banks’ The Sweet Hereafter as the benchmark for this technique.) In The Doctor’s Wife, each of the four main characters is interestingly flawed. There’s…

Annie— the “doctor’s wife” of the book’s title, who decides to have an affair with Simon;

Simon, an unconventional artist who took advantage of his wife Lydia in her youth;

Lydia, who joins an extremist group that protests abortion through violent means; and

Michael, Annie’s husband— the doctor, whose dedication to his work is straining his marriage.

This book has a gripping plot, and it was delightfully uncomfortable to read (those flawed characters again, wreaking havoc on their lives and the lives of others!) I’m not giving anything away to tell you that Lydia kidnaps Michael; this is revealed right at the beginning of the book. The rest of the story, which explains how they reached that point, is then revealed. I found it similar to some of Sue Miller’s books— the unforeseen effects of one’s choices creeping into life in unexpected ways.