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The Good Wife

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3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  1,492 ratings  ·  227 reviews
From a writer who reveals 'the plainness of everyday life with straightforward lyricism' (The New York Times Book Review), the story of one remarkable, average woman.

On a clear winter night in upstate New York, two young men break in to a house they believe is empty. It isn't, and within minutes an old woman is dead and the house is in flames. Soon after, the men are caugh
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ebook, 320 pages
Published April 1st 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published March 23rd 2005)
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Community Reviews

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Matt
There is a very small list of professions dramatized in modern novels, television shows, and movies. Drama requires that a protagonist be able to engage in the action at any time; as such, he or she can’t be helping someone fill out a loan application while there’s an international conspiracy to unravel. The most popular fictional jobs belong to doctors, lawyers, and law enforcement officials, since a story’s drama can arise organically from the job. Outside of that realm, fictional professions ...more
Myfanwy
Told in a matter-of-fact, unsentimental way, The Good Wife tells the story of one family and 25 years of their lives as they work through the New York state penal system.

Tommy Dickerson does something stupid. He follows his friend Gary's lead and ends up involved in a murder for which he (and not Gary) pays the price--25 years in prison. At the time of his arrest, his wife Patty is pregnant. This is her story.

We see through her eyes the frustration of the poor as they try to work the system. E
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David
The sadness of this book, the long life story of a woman whose husband goes to jail for murder while she is pregnant with his child, reminded me of the big open lost sadness of Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, even though the story is far less sensational. This is America not as a place of cruelty and menace, as in Cormac McCarthy, or a place of unrealized dreams, or a place of great injustice - it is less definite than that. It is a place of disconnection, of small lives, modest hopes. L ...more
Jeanette
Loyalty when it doesn't come easy. O'Nan knows marginal blue collar people, their families; be it rural, urban, suburban. This tale of a woman who doesn't run from a reality that takes more than it gives could be a tale of thousands of good wives. The kind who keep the promises they make, regardless of lack of pleasant outcomes.

I'm going to read all he has written. It's marvelous to find an author that has the voice of the people of your actual life. Not takers, but givers. Who work and live and
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K
No offense, Marg, but reading this book reminded me of trudging through the streets on a cold, rainy day to run long and necessary errands without a car. Slog slog slog. Yes, it was well-written, but talk about depressing.

Patty is pregnant with her first child when her husband Tommy gets mixed up in a breaking and entering gone awry. Someone is murdered, and Tommy ends up going to prison. The book chronicles Patty's life raising her child on her own, standing by her (undeserving in my opinion) m
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Pam
I've read most of O'Nan's books. In some of them, lots of stuff happens -- an epidemic and a fire in A Prayer for the Dying, a car accident and a haunting in The Night Country, a murder in Snow Angels. But his books where "nothing happens" are just as interesting -- Last Night at the Lobster, Wish You Were Here, and this one.

There's more than one way to look at Patty's dedication to her husband, her "steadfastness" through his 28 years in prison Could be she just doesn't have the smarts, the wi
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Lynn Asmus
I lived in Patty's world for the few days it took to read this book. O'Nan can create a setting, a mood, a sense of time and place in a few sentences. I am there in the courtroom, I am riding in the car with Patty, Her story is sad, but really, she is not. Never depressed and only occasionally self pitying but quickly recovers. Does what she has to do, plays the hand she, through no fault of her own, is dealt. I loved this book. My only question for her would be why she didn't question where he ...more
Sandra
My first Stewart O'Nan book. I kept reading until the end because I thought something was going to happen, maybe a suicide, who knows...
But nothing did happen.
Of course I felt for Patty, she has a very hard life. But overall I was bored. Sometimes O'Nan describes every little detail like which ingredients she needs to prepare dinner or which cookies she bakes, then he skips years ahead. At some point the boy is about to fail maths and then on the next page skippign ahead some years he is a grad
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Jenn
*sigh* God, I loved this book so much. Stewart O'Nan is the king of making something mundane that no one would ever think about and sympathize and completely engross yourself in their life. Every single O'Nan book is utterly different but each one brings you into a life you never would have thought about. I'll admit it, I'm an O'Nan fangirl. PROUDLY.
Theresa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
El
Patty Dickerson is woken one night by a phone call notifying her of her husband's arrest. Through a series of unfortunate penal events, Tommy is put behind bars for his activities. Patty becomes "the good wife" in that she struggles to balance her life with being there for her husband in jail. The struggles themselves are the bulk of the story - from having to move in with her family, raising their son on her own, taking a series of dead-end and low-paying jobs, driving hours both ways in order ...more
M
As an English teacher, I am often asked why we bother reading fiction. What can we possibly learn from made up stories? There are several answers to this question, but the one that resonates most with me is what Nasar Afisi points out in her memoir, which is that fiction - good fiction - makes us uncomfortable in our moral skin and reminds us that there is more than one way to view the world. By presenting conflicts and complex issues, fiction reminds us how ambiguous even morality can be and to ...more
Gerri Leen
I am endeavoring to read all of O'Nan's books, and so far I've only met up with one that didn't hold me. I'd held off on this one because the subject matter didn't really appeal: a young woman must make a life for herself and her child while her husband is in jail for murder. Yeah, not the feel good story of the year. And it is about just about nothing, with ordinary people at every turn.

And yet, I find that it is one that has stayed with me, the same way Last Night at the Lobster did. O'Nan may
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Barbara
Stuart O'Nan has been described as "the bard of the working class". In this case he has skillfully crafted a wrenching tale of a young woman, Patty, whose husband has been convicted of a heinous crime and sentenced to a prolonged prison sentence.

O'Nan has remarkably captured the depths of despair and hopelessness for this young woman. In addition, the widespread effects of the situation are sensitively addressed. One can clearly view the economic and social status and the frustrations for Patty
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Fanficfan44
The Good Wife by Stewart O’Nan is a book that I saw featured on a List Challenges list (of course, I can’t remember which one) .Years ago I read another book with the same title by Jane Porter. Jane Porter’s book was a straight up romance/women’s fiction, this “Good Wife” is not.

Stewart O’Nan’s The Good Wife is about the strength of a marriage that is tested beyond belief. A pregnant Patty receives a phone call in the middle of the night, not the stereotypical call about an accident or a death,
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Terri
I like it, I love these deep, thoughtful, books, not for everyone.
Christina
When I first started reading this I was enjoying the flow of the way the author was telling the story. However when throughout the whole book it was She this, and Patty that it just left me lacking feeling. Where was the dialogue we lived only in her movements and thoughts. The truth is this book hit very close to home I having been able to experience the way the system works first hand and understand that it's is the families who suffer most on both sides. This book just lacked the true feeling ...more
Ross
This is a simple and powerful book that basically tells the life of someone on “the outside” – that is, someone related to a prison inmate. O’Nan has a knack for conveying inner life through dialogue and simple statements. There aren’t many adjectives in this book, and not much in the way of beautiful prose. It is sparse and to the point. But it has the ring of truth, with the exception of a key fact about a codefendant. But that hardly matters. The book covers a long period of time and does an ...more
Melissa
I almost gave this 3 stars, but I feel like I'm always too generous with my ratings, and besides, I didn't really like it all that much. It was pretty good, I suppose. I found it a bit boring is all. It's the story of a woman who's husband is found guilty of murder while she's pregnant with his kid. It follows her life throughout her husband's 30 years in prison. It's sad. I wanted her to move on with her life, but she really does love her husband, so she sticks it out. Overall, I just couldn't ...more
Corey
I loved this book to begin with, then I only liked it, then I decided I sort of hated it. In the end, I simply don't know what to make of it. I walked home from the library with a stack of books and read the fist chapter of each. This was the one I couldn't put down... something about the simplicity of his writing and the urgency of the opening scenes (pregnant wife gets a call from husband at 2 am, "I'm in a little trouble"). I think I still like the writing but was disappointed with the plot. ...more
Amy Rhodes
No, nothing to do with Juliana Margulies...as you all may have noticed, I recently discovered Stewart O'Nan and now, whenever I can't find something else at the library, I go to his backlist. A friend says Stone Angel is the best but that wasn't on the shelf so I found this and was, once again, riveted. He has a way of telling a story in which very little happens but the characters are so real and regular and heartbreaking in a completely unmelodramatic way. This is the third one I've read in 3 ...more
Beth
Jan 04, 2009 Beth rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Beth by: NPR
Shelves: fiction
This book came highly recommended by NPR commentators, and several other sources as well. Well, I just couldn't make myself like it. The writing didn't seem very compelling to me, and I just couldn't sympathize with "the good wife". In the end she seemed like a not very strong-willed person. She never seemed to make choices in her life, but let her life choose for her. This is not the same as sticking it out in a tough situation. She could have taken more control of her life. I was disappointed.
Russell Bittner
This is the second work of Stewart O’Nan’s I’ve read. The first (about a decade ago) was The Circus Fire, which I never reviewed, but which I still remember as having been quite competently written.


In The Good Wife, we find at least two extraordinary things: (1) the ordinariness of the characters, their situations, their actions and reactions, what they buy, use, abuse and ultimately destroy or discard, right down to the all-too-familiar brand names; and (2) O’Nan’s extraordinary powers of descr
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Corrie
If your husband robbed houses without you ever knowing, accidentally killed an old woman during the process, got arrested, got sentenced to 20-30 years in jail, never explained himself, and left you with nothing but an unborn baby, would you wait around for him for 20 years, visit him routinely though he was inprisoned thousands of miles away, and pine for the good old days? Me neither. I couldn't believe this story.
Linda Boyd
This was a really good book. The story was a little sad, it is about Patty Dickerson's life after her husband gets into some legal trouble. The changes that happened in their life during this time. It makes you wonder if you were put into this same situation would you make some of the same decisions and choices that Patty did - I'm not so sure......
Nick
I love the whole idea of this book -- tell the story of a blue-collar wife whose husband has been sent to prison for 25 to life for a murder [perhaps accidental?] committed during a robbery -- but in the end I also found it a bit boring. It's a sympathetic and unsentimental account of Patty's life at the time of her husband's conviction (she's pregnant) and her struggle to make ends meet in their upstate New York town raising her child on their own, moving from job to job, and dealing with what ...more
Mary
This was a tremendously moving book, an understated testament to the bedrock of family. It was a pleasure to read, but after finishing it, I felt that the story, spanning more than 25 years, focused on the marriage between Patty and Tommy--perfect names--at the cost of developing either of them as characters.

When I thought about Patty after finishing the book, I found it hard to believe that she didn't go out with friends from work, have conversations with a friend about the choice she's making
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Darcy
Bought it at a used book sale with a few other books. If you like stories about a man in prison and what life is like for his wife who must go on without him then check this out. Again I would be happy to give my copy away.
Wanda
This author was recommended to me and "The Good Wife" was the first book I saw written by Stewart O'Nan. I like his style of writing -- very direct, no extra prose to describe the people and events (very much the opposite of "The Goldfinch" which I just finished).

Patty is the main character. Her husband goes to prison for murder while she is pregnant with their son. This story is about Patty, her husband, their son and being the good wife. O'Nan certainly touched all my emotions with Patty. I b
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Lauren
O'Nan for me, is consistently mediocre. With the exception of Last Night at the Lobster and Snow Angels, his books are typically just OK, regularly earning 3 out of 5 stars in my Goodreads ratings.

Some of the trouble lies in what I would argue is a propensity for nice, clean endings. Nothing about an O'Nan ending is ever complicated; uncertain maybe, but never uncertain in a way that implies danger, longing, or heartache. His endings are abrupt and absolute. I never get the sense that the chara
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Stewart O'Nan is the author of eleven novels, including Snow Angels and A Prayer for the Dying, a story collection, and two works of nonfiction. His previous novel, Last Night at the Lobster, was a national bestseller, was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was named one of the New York Public Library Books to Remember. Additionally, Granta named him one of the 20 Best Young Ameri ...more
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