Title: The Ninth Wife
Author: Amy Stolls
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“In The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls, Bess Gray has just learned that the man she loves, the man who asked for her hand in marriage, has been married eight times before. This funny, touching, and surprising novel follows Bess on her cross-country odyssey to learn about her oft-wed fiance from the eight ex-spouses who came before. Stolls, an acclaimed author of Young Adult novels and winner of the Parents’ Choice Gold Award brilliantly explores the very grown-up world of male-female relationships and family dynamics in the delightful, unforgettable new masterwork of contemporary women’s fiction.”
Thoughts: A sad fact about today’s society is that a majority of all people who marry at least once will also get divorced. One or two divorces is considered normal. Three or four is slightly amusing. Anything over that, and you head into the Hollywood marriage rate, which is only acceptable if you are fabulously wealthy or notorious. So, what is a girl to do when she finds out that her boyfriend has been married eight times? While the answer is seemingly simple, Amy Stolls’ The Ninth Wife explores the complications behind this question and the vagaries of love.
The story switches back and forth between Rory and Bess. From Rory, the reader gets a first-hand understanding of why he chose to marry eight different women while getting a hint at how Bess just might be different. Bess’ point of view mirrors the reader’s own, as she struggles to fathom how someone could ever get married that often and still want to attempt another marriage and reconciling the feeling of disbelief with her growing feelings of love and commitment to someone who obviously is not commitment-phobic. This duality, while often adding a comedic bent to the story, presents a very clear picture of the different types of love that exist, how each one is legitimate and fills a need in people. While a delightfully light-hearted story on its own, the reasons for all eight wives are all serious and reasonable, which themselves insert a more studious tone to the novel. This seriousness in no way detracts from the novel but rather instills a measure of realism to the proceedings.
In Bess, Ms. Stolls has created a character with whom many a reader will be able to identify. Suffering from self-esteem issues, loneliness, societal expectations, and an aging family, her experiences will be all too familiar for readers of a certain age. Yet, readers of any age can relate to her feelings of inadequacy and desire for a meaningful relationship. The fact that Bess is so adorably likable is a testament to Ms. Stolls’ ability to create a character that is sympathetic, not too depressing, and engaging. Conversely, Rory is just plain charming. Between the two, the tension and laughs, romantic and otherwise, flow freely.
For those who like this sort of thing, there is a lesson to be learned about relationships; however, those readers who just prefer to sink into a great novel without bothering with any life lessons, The Ninth Wife definitely fits the bill. Ms. Stolls has created a cast of characters that is as humorous, fun, and realistic as one would want while adding an element of poignancy and sensitivity to the overall story. Life is not all fun and games, and Ms. Stolls maintains a balance between the whimsical and the realistic. The Ninth Wife is simply a delightful story about the power of relationships and love.
Thank you to NetGalley for my e-galley!