SECRET LIVES OF SECOND WIVES by Catherine Todd

SECRET LIVES OF SECOND WIVES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Or, the thorny romantic entanglements of immigration lawyers.

Considering the size of the dot-bomb implosion and its still-reverberating effects, it’s surprising that more fiction writers haven’t availed themselves of the new, downsized, Silicon Valley as a setting for comic contretemps. Todd (Exit Strategies, 2002, etc.) uses it here in an unlikely manner as she sets her remarried, fortysomething protagonist, Lynn Bartlett, to working the detritus of the dot-bomb as an immigration lawyer—all those immigrants who came to work the Internet boom have now lost their jobs, their visas are soon expiring, and they don’t want to leave America. Married to a millionaire tech businessman (whose real business is never quite explained, much like his character) with two grown children (they both seem to mistake Lynn for a wicked fairy stepmother), Lynn has her hands full keeping her small firm afloat after her partner makes some potentially catastrophic mistakes. Having saddled herself with the book-title that she did, Todd is forced to send Lynn into narrative detours where she goes through emotional hand-wringing over her status as second wife, going so far as to join an informal coffee-klatch known as the Anne Boleyn Society. This could have been the breeding ground for decent situational comedy, but Todd sabotages it by making the details of Lynn’s real life—her collapsing business and the strange attraction she starts feeling toward one of her clients, a Russian scientist from Stanford—much more interesting, to the point where the second-wife material feels clumsily grafted on. Todd can be painfully didactic at times (Lynn’s stepchildren and her husband’s first wife are mostly monstrous caricatures), and she has an obnoxious default tic of always comparing important dramatic moments to books or films, although the whole sweeps by in a competent and generally likable fashion.

Breezy and smart enough, but more like a warm-up for a real novel than the thing itself.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-06-051238-5
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2003