I’ll be honest. I didn’t fully appreciate the scope and depth of this novel until I was part way through. And that is not at all because the panty dropping forays increased in intensity at that point.
Once into the meatier half of Elissa Wald’s book, I found myself drawing entirely new and startling conclusions about the protagonists, having been presented with familiar sensations in incredibly polarized situations. Even though I didn’t see myself as any of the characters, I saw myself in those pages. A massive achievement on the authors part.
The first half of the novel follows a woman named Leda and her… somewhat strained relationship with her husband Stas. I found this half – though delicious, somewhat difficult to assimilate. As if I were trapped somewhere between measuring the conflicts relative to Leda’s narrative, yet struggling to compartmentalize what she was feeling with how I thought she should be feeling, and reacting accordingly (a trap for the pragmatic, omnipresent reader).
The story evolves however, whether the reader is ready for it or not. An equally enticing and revealing look at Leda’s twin and opposite Lillian, and a woman named Nan quickly dispels the hazardously negotiated feelings of control and expectation the reader has garnered thus far.
I am loath to give away any details of the plot for fear of shattering the illusion cast upon the reader while gorging on this story, for the pinnacle of the writers success here is not only in the suspense, but the emphatic array of conflicting emotions that bleed through every page. The biggest surprise of all, being that you have soaked them yourself, regardless if you agree or disagree with the conclusions wrought by the characters.
Despite my subconscious attempts at distancing myself from the stories to discern their likely outcomes, or at least to anticipate the value of the problems they encounter, the very nature of the conflicts faced by Leda, Lillian and Nan elicits an intensive introspection that is not limited to an empathetic understanding of the direct problems faced, but encourages an unapologetic consideration of any situation in which your heart and your mind are at odds.
The meaningful and realistic way the author deals with the characters in the story is enchanting, and, truly, it did feel as if a spell had been broken when I closed the book and put it down. A part of me felt bereft. As short as the book is (and I believe it is best that way) there was a sense of loss – a directionless appeal for the clarity and comfort that the author manages to conceal between the lines.
I would be remiss in classifying this book as an erotic thriller, for that fails to encapsulate the entirety of what Elissa Wald has done. She has laid bare the most basic instincts of our psyche in a stark and haunting exposure, such that it at once offends, confounds, and exults in the personal struggles we all face with our deepest, darkest secrets.
In Pure Spirit
Did you explore a deeper meaning in Wald’s novel?
Would you consider the book based on its psychological implications, the naughty bits, or both?
Disclosure: My copy of the book was provided for review. The Secret Lives of Married Women by Elissa Wald. Titan Books