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My Only Wife

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  372 ratings  ·  81 reviews

Ten years ago the narrator unlocked the door of a wrecked apartment, empty of any trace of his wife. As stunning as her disappearance is his response. He freezes on the facts of her, haunting his recollections. This is the story of a man unable to free himself enough from the idea of a woman to try to find her.

"My Only Wife is a sneaky book. It guiles the reader with clean
Paperback, 194 pages
Published May 8th 2012 by Dzanc Books (first published April 10th 2012)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  372 ratings  ·  81 reviews

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Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
"I assume the you that was mine, will never be anyone else's."

My Only Wife by Jac Jemc is well-written. Interesting, Heartbreaking and also touching!

"She was MY ONLY WIFE and I accepted her for all that she was, all quirks, all inconsistencies and unexpected preferences."

It's a love story, a 'true love' story. It is about a husband who loves and adores his wife - his only wife! There is a lot of depth and meaning, in his love for her.

"I miss you. I`ve found bruises under my skin, now, weeks aft
Staci Miller
I wish I had a physical copy of this book (I read it on Kindle) and lived in a high rise apartment in Chicago. I would neatly tear the pages out and send them soaring into the wind so others can find it. Words cannot express my love for this book, and I cannot find words for recommending it to people who might enjoy it. I tried to tell one friend, it came out wrong.
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
My Only Wife is a great novel to get lost in. I devoured it in one day, and the story captivated me the whole while. Jac Jemc is an accomplished author. Reading her writing is like falling into a dream. I didn't want to resurface.

In My Only Wife, the nameless narrator recounts his time with his nameless wife. They were together for ten years before she wrecked their apartment and disappeared. Years later, the narrator is convinced he will never see her again; she's gone for good. But that doesn'
Samuel Snoek-Brown
Jun 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommendations
This slim novel simply swept me away. I had the good fortune to pick it up at a reading Jemc gave in Portland, in the last of the famed Smalldoggies Press series, but I actually bought it before Jemc read. I am a man utterly devoted to my wife, so the title alone caught my eye; I am also a man happily married to my wife, so the short write-up on the inside flap -- "Ten years ago the narrator unlocked the door of a wrecked apartment, empty of any trace of his wife. As stunning as her disappearanc ...more
Ryan Werner
A fifth of the way through the book, we finally find out what the inside flap already told us: this dude's wife left. Until then--and and after then for pretty much the entire rest of the book--we get vignettes of his wife being an obnoxious dickhead. She's difficult, selfish, and rude and this guy just loves her so damn much. Somewhat charming and a testament to not needing to understand other people's love, but I also feel bad for the guy.

The wife doesn't quite fall into the manic pixie dream
Robert Wechsler
Apr 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-lit
This short novel starts out as a description of the narrator’s wife. It’s so wonderful and fresh that I wondered whether Jemc could sustain it for 160 pages. Just when I started thinking she couldn’t, the novel shifts to storytelling, first about how they met and courted, and then more freely into stories told by and about others. Until the last 20 pages or so, everything Jemc does works extremely well. I think the ending was unnecessary; an editor should have talked her out of it.

But it does no
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I simply LOVED this book from beginning to end. There were times that I thought the characterizations were going to become too mannered for my taste but the author always managed to keep things grounded enough so that the characters remained real instead of fantastical. Or maybe I should say just fantastical enough. Anyway, whatever the tonality of this book was is just right for me. Can't wait to read more by this author.
From publisher

Read 5/15/12 - 5/19/12
4.5 Stars - Highly Recommended to everyone. Period.
Pgs: 168
Publisher: Dzanc Books

Jac Jemc paints a devastating picture of what happens to the one who gets left behind in her debut novel My Only Wife .

First, a confession: By sheer coincidence, I read Jac's novel on the heels of Amelia Gray's Threats, and while I promise this review will not be spent dissecting how similar the two novels are to one another, there seems no better way to start than by making some
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Jack Jemc's writing is so incredible. This is the third book by the author that I've read, and I am continually awed by the author's power over the written word. This was a brief but intense book about a marriage through they eyes of a husband struggling to understand his very strange wife. She seems to swing wildly between emotions and needs and boundaries, and all we know is that he quietly weathers the storm until one day she is simply gone. I think, ultimately, she (known to is readers as on ...more
Brandon Will
Sep 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Jac Jemc dares to show the complexities of two people so much so that at times it's hard to not be really annoyed by them (judging by some of the reviews on here, this is a feeling people have when reading this novel sometimes, a feeling I, too, had).

It's worth reading on if you find yourself so exasperated with one of the characters you'd kind of like to throw the book across the room.

Jemc doesn't idealize people, even though her narrator, the husband, tends to do this for his wife at times.
Kasa Cotugno
Aug 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is the third book I've read in recent memory recounted by an unreliable narrator whose wife has fled the coop or been offed, but is nonetheless gone. I have tried but failed to remember if this construct has been employed utilizing an abandoned wife, but it seems the women are the ones who leave and are missed dearly. As with the others, the wedded life previous to the disappearance is idealized and the woman herself fetishized. This is a richer portrait of the unnamed wife, and the life de ...more
Dec 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jac be nimble, Jac be quick, Jac knifed this book in your head to stick.

"I'm not a puzzle to be figured out, and I think if you figure something out, it's probably just for you, and probably has nothing to do with me."

It's unnerving to me how familiarly this WOMAN depicts genuine husbandly devotion. There's nothing especially surreal about it, and perhaps it is the unexpected deftness with which a concrete array of intimate phenomena culminates in numinous nothingness, in the pulsing abyss of ab
Jessica Thompson
Jun 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
This man's maniacal love for his nameless wife is both breath-taking and maddening. The reader will find him/herself sympathizing with both husband and wife and equally despising the same. The way this husband describes his wife lovingly with a hint of resentment, the way the wife appears desirable yet narcissistic - the reader is delightfully confused for the majority of the read. I wanted to be her, but she sickened me. I wanted to be loved by him, but I found him pathetic. This is a melanchol ...more
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mount-tbr-2020
This is going to leave me with a book hangover - so many unanswered questions!
Did she always know she was going to leave?
Did she love him the best she possibly could?
Was it love, or just a transactional relationship? Are all marriages transactional relationships at their core?
Is she redeemable?
Does he really want her back? Or is he satisfied with having loved & lost, with having had a fairly successful relationship up until the end (and isn’t that the best we can hope for, really)?

A pleasure to
Jensen Beach
May 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was a really great book. Compelling voice, intriguing plot. I loved every minute.
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
His wife has disappeared, leaving a chaotic mess of their apartment, and a thousand questions fleeting through the narrator's broken heart and mind. He soaks in his hindsight, and describes to us the enigmatic, frustrating, beautiful existence of his wife, and the uncontrollable nature of her leaving.

Jac Jemc has given us a story with minimal movement, a barren landscape of context, and a claustrophobically small cast of characters. The anonymous narrator's recanting of his mysterious wife is e
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The more I think about this book, the more themes and layers start to manifest themselves. It's remarkable how the author weaved in multiple separate short stories into this novel and made them all work. Several elements appear throughout the narrative - rooms, closets, apartments, spaces; books, stories, letters; art, drawings, paintings; food, cooking. The main character is driven to create, but her process emphasizes the impermanence of her creations; in several instances in a literal sense.
Strange Weather
Jul 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
This novel made me uncomfortable enough to fidget, though it was a quick one by which to be caught up. The plot: a one-sided portrait of a romance written by a husband after his wife vanished. At times it was well written enough to feel too intimate, like stumbling into the relationship pivot of a stranger: the absurd human elements of a serious conversation, the elusive pain in misunderstandings, the bubbled-up flaws.

A beautifully written vortex of emotional realism and the remembered/imagined
Oct 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Short novel narrated by a man who's wife left him suddenly, as he reflects back on her and how little he actually knew her. The second half was stronger than the first, imo, and I preferred this author's short story collection A Different Bed Every Time. But still overall, pretty damn good. ...more
Savannah Slone
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Blown away. One of the best examples of characterization I've ever witnessed. ...more
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I both love and hate this book. I love that it’s thought-provoking. I love that it’s unforgiving in its portrayal of this broken marriage. I love that though you know he’s an unreliable narrator - a man telling only his side of a story colored by his wife’s abandonment - you still get to see why she would leave him. He reveals himself in the way he speaks about her, how he reacts to her. She is a wild and selfish person but he is a martyr with no backbone. They are terrible for each other from t ...more
Feb 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Jac Jemc can write, there is no doubt about that. Wow. The emotional impact of this book was terrifying for me. Though I can understand many readers may not feel the same way at all, and may find the book is too bland, lacks a direction, or just meanders around in its narrative.
This sentence from the book speaks volumes in its simplicity: My wife acted and reacted with meticulous consideration of herself. This fictional wife is probably someone many people know, and many of those many people pr
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
I must not be hipster enough to see what all the hype was about. I would warn you that there are spoilers ahead, but the truth is, there are absolutely no spoilers to spoil. There’s just....nothing. It’s 168 pages of a guy talking about his eccentric, obnoxious wife and how much he loves her, even though she doesn’t seem to care about him in any way. She’s rude, selfish, and - if we’re being honest - diagnosably crazy. When I read the book synopsis, I was expecting some sort of mystery or drama ...more
Richard  Thomas
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing

There is a sense of chaos involved in the act of falling in love, a lack of control, and quite possibly a hint of something tragic, a chance to be hurt. This applies to the slim but haunting novel My Only Wife (Dzanc Books) by Jac Jemc. In marriage there is the possibility of intimacy, a merging of spirit and life, but the reality can be a dense caryatid carved out of lies, mysteries, and selfish acts.

My Only Wife is about an unnamed
Nov 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I were going strictly by enjoyment I'd have given it 2 stars because it wasn't much fun constantly wanting to punch the wife in her koan-spouting throat(some characters are fun2hate but not just get annoyed by). I also thought the husband was an irritating chump
but I understood how his need to get away could keep disappearing like hunger pangs. Not the exact words but tho I'm not much of a highlighter I might've highlighted that sentence.
I figured since it wasn't too long I might as well not
Julia Zee
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was hoping for something with the strong sense of direction of Jemc's THE GRIP OF IT, which is rigorously structured and existentially disturbing. But MY ONLY WIFE still gives the impression of some secret underlying logic, even though nothing really changes. There's symmetry and recurrent imagery that takes the place of a conventional story.

I admired the novel for the uniqueness of the "wife" character, the likes of whom I've never encountered before. She's slightly monstrous in her selfishn
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
*Shaking my head*
I just don't know what to say. I was SO looking forward to reading My Only Wife after seeing so many positive reviews but ... it just didn't hit the mark for me. Really strange little book. The whole thing was somewhat annoying in my opinion. I guess the author was going for something artistic with the narrative - my wife this, my wife that...
At first I was a little drawn in but after a short while it lost its appeal. Also, I found myself disliking the 2 main nameless characte
Isabelle Ceyssens
Nov 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
This must really not be my book...
Apart from the fact I didn't like the quirkiness of the wife, portraying her as this mystical creature (and not really a sympathetic one at that), the fact that there were so many hints at possible plot-twists that never came, the constant referring to her as 'my wife', the total lack of action,... It was a non-story, more like a description of amount-to-nothing events, that I could have done without.

I could have done without the entire 'story'. Not just disapp
Travis Fortney
Mar 11, 2013 rated it liked it
My review from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, which you can find here:


This marks the first title I have read from indie publisher Dzanc Books, and the happy truth is that Jac Jemc's My Only Wife is an enjoyable, engaging, and well-written book. I read it in a single afternoon, and I firmly believe that if I am going to sit with a story that long, then then writer has done the part of her work that consists of writing good sentences very well.

The book'
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