The Replacement Wife by Eileen Goudge
Published by Open Road Media
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Camille Hart enjoys great success as owner of Manhattan’s premier matchmaking agency. Her matchmaking skills are sought after by many, as she has proven time and time again that she is uniquely adept at bringing people together in just the right couplings. She is in her forties and loving life with her husband Edward and their two children when she learns that the cancer that was once in remission is back, and this time it’s terminal. Camille decides to put her matchmaking skills to use in the most important job of her career – finding the perfect person for her husband to be with after she is gone. Unfortunately, this scenario doesn’t work as well as she anticipated and she finds herself in a terrible place emotionally with her husband in what could be the final months and weeks of her life.
I chose to read The Replacement Wife because I enjoyed one of Goudge’s previous novels, Once in a Blue Moon, and I thought the premise of this book sounded interesting – something I hadn’t seen before in fiction. Generally speaking, the plot of the novel kept me engaged and interested enough to continue reading. I definitely wanted to find out how things would turn out for Camille, Edward, and whatever woman Edward ended up “replacing” his wife with.
I liked a few of the characters of the book – most notably Angie, who admittedly was more of a secondary character and whose story was less of a priority than Camille and Edward’s. I felt that she was the most real character, honestly, and definitely had the most depth of all of them. I liked that she was incredibly flawed but still a good person at heart and I could understand why she made some of the mistakes that she did. Camille was a mixed bag for me – I was alternately empathetic towards her and frustrated with her at different points throughout the book. On the one hand, I understood why she felt that Edward would need to find someone to take care of himself and the children once she was gone, but at the same time I didn’t understand why she didn’t believe in Edward’s ability to find that woman for himself. Also, it was clear from the onset that Edward wasn’t happy with Camille’s grand scheme, so it didn’t make sense to me why she wouldn’t just drop it and spend her final days enjoying her husband instead of fighting with him.
Edward was the character I had the most difficulty with. I felt that perhaps he should have put his foot down when Camille insisted on embarking on this project but unfortunately his choices had drastic consequences for their marriage and his life. I mean, I sort of got where he was coming from, but a lot of what he said and did bothered me.
My one real complaint about The Replacement Wife is the length of the novel. I thought it was much too long for the story it contained. In my opinion, Goudge could have cut out at least 50 pages, possibly closer to 100, without sacrificing the integrity of the novel one bit. It definitely dragged in the middle for me and I would have been happier with a slightly shorter version of The Replacement Wife.
While I don’t want to give away any important plot points, especially the ending, I will say that it did not end the way I was expecting, which usually is a good thing. In this case, I’m still not sure how I feel about how Goudge chose to wrap up the novel. It seemed to be conveying the message of “be careful what you wish for…” while at the same time left major heaviness in my heart. It also caused me to have conflicting emotions, because I was happy for some of the characters but truly sad for some others. It was interesting, to say the least.
Overall, The Replacement Wife was a worthwhile read for me, even though there were aspects of the novel I didn’t love. It is quite a unique premise, but if you can suspend your disbelief about the concept of the novel, the characters are engaging and the story (mostly) moves along quite nicely. This was my second time reading Goudge’s work, and it won’t be the last.