In this debut novel, a disillusioned wife seeks to make her voice heard.
After a year in England, newlyweds Jacob and Susan Wells return to their native Caribbean island to have their first child. They move in with Jacob’s mother, Adassa, to save money while he opens a drugstore. He plans to give the store to Adassa so that she has a way of providing for herself and Jacob’s younger siblings. The pregnant Susan hopes that Jacob’s family will make good company. But it turns out Adassa is wildly jealous of Susan’s position in Jacob’s life: He “planned it all out to provide financially for his mother and her children so he could leave them. But financial support doesn’t seem enough for Adassa. She wants the man. She wants Jacob to be her surrogate spouse and forever support her home and raise her children.” Jacob and Susan finally have enough money to move into their own apartment, but soon after having a second child, she learns that he has been keeping a mistress. Susan confronts him and tries to make the marriage work. After they have a third child, Jacob—poorly adjusted due to Adassa’s strange mothering—becomes increasingly abusive. The frustrated Susan turns to writing letters to the newspaper on the subjects of marriage and parenthood, and she quickly gains a following. If she can’t control what’s happening in her own family, can she perhaps fix the institution of marriage at the national level? Mildower’s depiction of Susan and Jacob’s frayed marriage feels true to life—the author even admits that it’s based on a real story. But his prose style is highly expositional, and the novel contains long passages of summary (rendered, for some reason, in the present tense) with very little dialogue: “Jacob is very insensitive to any need in the home other than physical need, and her emotions are being constantly challenged. Meanwhile, she is intent on meeting the emotional needs of her children (born and unborn).” This distance will make it difficult for readers to engage emotionally with the intriguing characters.
The story of a marriage told with little variation.