Jan 08, 12
Read from March 15 to 24, 2011
** spoiler alert **
Sometimes the people closest to us turn out to be the most unfamiliar of strangers. Jennifer Haigh's heartbreaking and revealing novel takes a bold stand on life and marriage and asks the question: do we really know our better half as well as we think we do? At first glance, Ken Kimble is in every way the epitome of a perfect husband both in looks and in a personality that cracks like a whip with all the women he encounters. He seems too good to be true and he is, revealing himself to be an expert manipulator who cruelly deceives three wives leaving them nothing but a broken heart.
Birdie is the first to be tricked into Kimble's empty promises and cold demeanor after he seduces her and puts on a flashy courtship. Marrying her when she is only 18 years-old and he a cool 32, their union produced two children he could care less about and a young wife who had no idea what she was getting herself into. The years fade on as he begins to spend more and more time working late nights "teaching" at his school while Birdie, naive and alone, finds a friendly companion in drinking. Everything collapses when Kimble abandons them all for one of his students. Eventually, however, he even breaks off that relationship for a more appealing one in Joan, a lonely heiress who is immediately captivated by Kimble's dangerous charm. This only lasts a few years due to Joan's second affliction of cancer and conveniently, all of her wealth is passed on to him. Later on, he meets and marries his final wife, Dinah, who had actually been his first two children's babysitter years ago. Being significantly older than her, this relationship takes its toll as well but it can be argued that age has nothing to do with Dinah and Kimble's problems. Kimble is simply far too selfish and cold a man to live with but because of his wealth and their son, Dinah is forced to stay with him and submit to a life of unhappiness.
They say what goes around comes around... the memorable climax of the story will leave the reader mesmerized and perhaps a bit relieved, although maybe not fully satisfied. While Kimble does indeed pay some kind of retribution for his cruel and wicked ways, the ugly imprint he has left on the lives of his wives and his children alike will never go away. What is, what could have been, and what should have been are the realities that Birdie, Joan, and Dinah battle with each day of their life because they were unlucky enough to have a man pull the rug right out from beneath their feet.