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THE SPARE WIFE by Alex Witchel


by Alex Witchel

Pub Date: Feb. 7th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4000-4149-7
Publisher: Knopf

The Devil Wears Prada meets the Social Register in Witchel's second foray into fiction (Me Times Three, 2002).

Divorcée and widow Ponce Morris knows the New York social scene. The former model and lawyer is connected to everyone worth knowing—iconic TV news anchors, celebrity fertility specialists, multimillionaires and old-money editors of wittily trenchant magazines. Her specialty nowadays is serving as “spare wife,” a trusted friend to spouses. Ponce does it all: girl talk and party planning with wives, golf and hot dogs with husbands. Life is perfect until Babette Steele, an ambitious editorial assistant at a venerable yet trendy magazine, discovers Ponce's affair with a fertility specialist and plans an exposé. To squelch its publication, Ponce enlists the help of her friends—Babette's former employer Shawsie, an editor trying to get pregnant; Shawsie's philandering husband Robin, who is having an affair with Babette; and writer Rachel Lerner, who shares Babette's and Ponce's personal trainer. Where Plan A (involving a compromising tape of Babette) fails, Plan B (exposing Babette's ghostwriter) succeeds, and Babette pulls the story. But Babette has a plan of her own: She marries well and is soon hobnobbing in the same tony circles as Ponce, her misdeeds obscured by money and New Yorkers’ insatiable thirst for gossip.

Witchel's eye for detail is delicious, and the novel is engaging in its way, if you don’t mind stereotypes and a total lack of moral fiber—even the good deeds are calculated.