“Book Review: The Not Wives”
Reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell
A terrific literary novel of have and have nots.
As the Occupy Wall Street movement takes shape, so do the lives of three New York City women in The Not Wives. Told in four parts reflecting the seasons, Carley Moore’s novel is an upfront look at what it means to belong to yourself while trying to be a part of something bigger.
When main character Stevie witnesses a suicide while teaching, she is forced to put her life into perspective. Seeking out who and what really matters, she presses on through a separation, single motherhood, and single womanhood. She finds solace in her best friend Mel (a bartender) and also in a homeless youth named Johanna as Occupy Wall Street is taking over the city. Weaving in and out of the protests, each of these three women use each other as support in what has quickly become one of my favorite novels.
Scattered throughout are teeny tiny chapters, often titled “The Wives,” and in them are peeks into what a wife actually is: a dynamic person with a lot on their plate. Moore describes a wife as this and that at the same time, as doing all of the things and none of the things that you think about, and dodging the rule book but playing by it too, sometimes, if they want. This book presents the stereotypical high expectations for what a wife is and then lowers it so everyone on the ground can take an honest look.
The Not Wives does a brilliant job at deconstructing adult relationships outside of the commitment of marriage through their three main characters. Some of the most serious relationships in the book are the ones not bonded by a contract: Stevie and Mel, Mel and her long-term girlfriend, Johanna and her boyfriend. Love is multiplied through friendships and more than friendships, and tested through addiction and separation. The not wives still carry the load to create and sustain their relationships, but they’re separated from the wedded title: a crown that feels both like a burden and a trophy. I loved them all!
Though Moore’s novel made me think hard about a ton of things, I was most drawn to the sex. Very cheeky of me, I know, but I wasn’t just in it for the good time. I enjoyed how fluid and consensual it is for the female main characters and how they put their enjoyment on the forefront. Whether it’s to score drugs or to conquer a few orgasms, it all feels entirely in their hands. They don’t focus much on the guilt that society places on promiscuous women; it is just a passing thought. They reassure themselves when faced with conflicting thoughts, making reading about sex in this way refreshing and relieving. I’m so thankful it was there.
Feminist Press has done it again with another book club worthy piece. Carley Moore‘s The Not Wives has so many important takeaways. I flew through this book in just a couple of days, energized by its short chapters and unable to put it down for too long.
Plenty of time to finish what you’re reading, as this one doesn’t come out until September 2019. So go on. Get reading. Because The Not Wives is coming.
Publisher: Feminist Press
Thank you for reading “Book Review: The Not Wives” by Jaylynn Korrell! If you liked what you read, please spend some more time with us at the links below.