The After Wife by Gigi Levangie Grazer

July 24, 2012

California Dreamin' or Boop-Oop-a-Doop
May be spoilers. The After Wife is a book that is out of my comfort zone.  First of all, it's contemporary, second, it's written in first person.  Either of these two things could have kept it permanently in my TBR pile, but once I started reading, I actually enjoyed the story.  And, my enjoyment of the tale is due mainly to the constant quips from the author's narrative.  In fact, there is so much bantering it may have worked to the detriment of the overall feel of the novel.  I never thought there would be a book that I'd consider overcrowded with funny wisecracks, but in this case there were times I needed a respite from the barrage of witticism.

The plot revolves around Hannah, a California woman who loses her husband in the first chapter and from then on we get to watch her cope, or in this case, not cope.  Helping Hannah "not cope" are her friends, the gay guy with the rapid-fire retorts, the older actress looking for her big break, and the health-food-rescue-all-the animals do-gooder woman.  And then there are the ghosts.  Somehow when Hannah's husband dies there is a tear in the veil between the living and the dead and Hannah is able to commune with the dearly departed.  This ability, which is out of her control, leads to numerous funny moments.  It seems the spirit world has no sense of timing.  Watch for the laugh out loud gynecologist scene.

The After Wife is a very humorous book and there are a few touching scenes scattered throughout.  However, I did have some problems with this story that kept it from being a DIK for me.  My thoughts about the problems: first of all, the characters were extremely shallow; they had more of a caricature feel about them and they were not truly developed.  This had the feel of a Lifetime made-for-TV aura about it.

Secondly, the fact that it is a contemporary story that will not age well.  There is a difference between something that is timely and something that is timeless.  I don't believe this book will ever be timeless.  If we look at Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, we now have what would be classified as a historical fiction, a classic timeless historical fiction.  However, at the time it was written it was a contemporary novel.  What makes P&P timeless is that the characters are fully developed and they are not drowning in dated slang or name dropping.  The After Wife has an overabundance of slang, words, people and things that will not hold up over time; probably they will be dated in just a couple of years.  It's the Boop-Oop-a-Doop syndrome or the right-on-bro or the how's your old lady, etc. All dated, and not timeless and one of the problems I have with contemporary novels.

Thirdly, when I was finished with this story, even though I thought this was an extremely funny book and I did enjoy it, I was left to ponder what was the point of this story?  People are shallow?  Gay guys are funny? Coyotes eat dogs?  Death is sad?  Unless it's funny.

In the end, go ahead and read this book - you will be entertained.  Just don't expect the meaning of life to come and tap you on the shoulder when you're finished.

Time/Place: Current California, USA
Sensuality rating: Warm

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