How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman
Published by St. Martin's Press
Publication date: October 15th 2013
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
When Marta and Hector married, his mother gave her a book of domestic lessons entitled How to be a Good Wife. By the time they’ve been married for over thirty years Marta knows it by heart and knows that bread must be baked fresh every day, that only the husband belongs in the outside world, and that ”catering to his comfort will give you an immense sense of personal satisfaction”. What she is less certain about is her life before she married Hector. Her memory is almost nonexistent and when she begins seeing a young blonde girl moving through the house that no one else sees, his only suggestion is that she take more of the pink pills he makes her take every day…but which she secretly throws away. And so with conflicting stories author Emma Chapman builds a twisting tale of marriage and mystery in How to Be a Good Wife.
Marta’s married life is a quiet and simple one. Her husband found her on the street: disoriented, beaten and starved and nursed her back to health. Despite the twenty-year difference in their ages she married him when she was better as, to the best of herknowledge, she had no family left alive. When the quiet of her days is interrupted by the smells, sounds, and sights associated with a thin young blonde haired woman she fears their house is haunted but has no one to talk to about it. The visitations become stronger with the girl appearing more frequently and even interacting with Marta. She can hear in her head and rather than being scary there is something about the young woman that seems familiar and she wants to help her. Unfortunately, events in her personal life become more stressful and she finds herself defending her emotional stability not just to her husband but to her grown son as well.
How to Be a Good Wife is Chapman’s debut novel and yet the ease with which she plays with the reader is seasoned. Marta perfectly fits the description of an unreliable narrator and so there is always doubt about what she sees and what it means. By keeping us firmly embedded in her mind and viewpoint Chapman creates an almost unbearable sensation of confusion. Is Marta crazy or being gaslighted by her husband? Or is there something worse, something even more terrifying going on? Even as Marta’s situation reaches its climax Chapman draws us in more closely, forcing us to look at the aftermath of the events and to cringe, wondering ‘what was the truth?’