Judy Blume’s novel Wifey is not her usual fare. Obviously as an adult fiction book it is automatically set apart from how we all knew her in our childhoods with Fudge-a-mania, Blubber, etc. I read Summer Sisters (one of her other adult novels) a while ago, and the girls in that book discover the “power in their pants” and how to “rub it until they get the electric buzz” so I wasn’t totally surprised that Wifey covered a lot of sexual scenes and issues, but what did surprise me was the tone.
Wifey covers difficult and sad topics, and while it was a fast page-turner with plenty of narration and action moving the story forward, it was hard because it was depressing - and after reading the introduction it was more depressing knowing that a lot of the issues mirrored Ms. Blume’s own life.
Set in the 1970′s I couldn’t decide whether I should label this as contemporary or not as there were many details that made it a period piece. For example I now know more about diaphragms as birth control than I ever wanted to. But I digress…
Here is the only summary I could find online, I don’t really like it but:
Wifey is Judy Blume’s hilarious, moving tale of a woman who trades in her conventional wifely duties for her wildest fantasies-and learns a lot about life along the way.
Sandy Pressman is a nice suburban wife whose boredom is getting the best of her. She could be making friends at the club, like her husband keeps encouraging her to do.
Or working on her golf game.
Or getting her hair done.
But for some reason, these things don’t interest her as much as the naked man on the motorcycle…
My impression is that Sandy Pressman was living in a fog, she had everything her mom and husband said she should want, but never thought for herself, or even thought about anything at all. She muddled through each day taking care of her 2 children, following her husband’s orders about her daily activities, and never questioning her own wants.
After a bout of illness followed by sending her children away to summer camp, Sandy has more time to herself, but is forced into golf and tennis by her husband to keep busy. On top of her distaste for the club activities she starts to observe the people around her and how unhappy they are, and resent her husband for his expectations. She finally begins to examine her own happiness and doesn’t like what she finds.
What follows is mainly an internal struggle, even though I thought Sandy was pathetic I liked her narrative voice and enjoyed following her thoughts. She acts out on her newfound dissatisfaction in her marriage by cheating on her husband with her best friend’s husband (her friend is in an open relationship so this is “okay” [wtf?!?]) and her sister’s husband (who is also her gynecologist). These are HUGE NO-NO issues for me most of the time but Sandy isn’t really a “heroine” that I had expectations for, just the protagonist who was making mistakes, but at least they were her own choices that she had the potential to learn from.
The only affair she had that I was “ok with” was with her first-love from high-school Shep, who she decides she is still in love with and wants to leave her husband and run away together.
But Sandy doesn’t get it. Well she does get it, if “it” is gonorrhea or orgasms. Is it wrong that I thought it was hilarious she got an STD? And also she can achieve orgasms like no other, having two by “thinking about it hard” during plain-old-intercourse.
But anyways Sandy doesn’t get that her problems can’t be fixed with another man, that it is HER that needs to change, she never sees positive options for herself as an individual and that was my main gripe with the novel.
Full rant with spoilers after the jump…
While the story is in the spirit of Kate Chopin’s classic The Awakening I didn’t feel like Sandy ever fully “woke up,” her character arc never completed so I was left unsatisfied. I mean I was pissed off when the main character in The Awakening killed herself but at the end of Wifey SANDY DECIDES TO STAY WITH HER HUSBAND!
Especially knowing that in real life Judy Blume DID make her own way in the world and had her own “happily-ever-after” that is what I expected for Sandy too. Now I know that in real life bad marriages, immature adults, mental illness, and suffocating families can be irresolvable, but I had higher hopes for Sandy.
AS a novel exploring marital issues, 1970’s ideals, and complicated family issues Wifey was well written and covered great content. For my reading preferences it didn’t suit my tastes, but I still mostly enjoyed it. I would recommend Wifey to someone who likes the Jody Piccoult and Nicholas Sparks books that do not end happily.