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My Only Wife
Jac Jemc
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My Only Wife

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  245 Ratings  ·  50 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.

Jac Jemc's work has appeared in the "Denver Quarterly," "Caketr
ebook, 194 pages
Published May 8th 2012 by Dzanc Books (first published April 10th 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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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  ·  review of another edition
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'
Robert Wechsler
Apr 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Samuel Snoek-Brown
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
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
Kasa Cotugno
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
Jul 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Zorphie Zorro
Oct 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant. Sheer excellence.
Jensen Beach
May 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a really great book. Compelling voice, intriguing plot. I loved every minute.
Richard Thomas
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
Travis Fortney
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'
Savannah Slone
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Blown away. One of the best examples of characterization I've ever witnessed.
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
Brandon Will
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.
Erin Lindsay McCabe
Narrated by a husband mourning his disappeared wife, this novel is essentially a character study that allows us to examine the idea of how much a person can be "known", even by those who are supposedly closest to her. The wife is portrayed as extremely quirky-- almost as if her entire life, her actions, her interests, her relationships are meant to be art pieces, all engineered to be interpreted and assigned meaning by the viewer (her husband, the reader). So, even though it's a character study ...more
Laura Rittenhouse
This is a very strange book. I'm not sure if it was meant to be about how love can be a bad thing, but that's what it was for me. The protagonist (the book is told in the first person) rambles unendingly (page 1 to the end) about his one wife. She seemed a bit off to me - he might have thought she was quirky, I thought she was a self-indulgent spoiled brat. He loved her with only a very few moments of doubt. From my read, the whole marriage was unhealthy for both of them. Theirs was not a very n ...more
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't want to say too much in spite of the fact that I would really like to talk about it. A shabby analogy: a hybrid of Gone Girl and 500 Days of Summer written in the detailed incisive style of a masterful short story writer.

A husband reminisces about his vanished wife in brief anecdotes, focusing on what made her so unusual, difficult, but also entrancing (to him and strangers alike). I almost but this down about 30 pages after being incredibly annoyed by another memory of something whimsi
Jen Webster
I had a tough time with this novel. If it hadn't been so short, I probably wouldn't have finished it. It's one of several novels on my shelf right now using first-person, unreliable narrators to describe the vanishing of their wives. The language in this novel was interesting, but in many ways I felt like it kept the characters at arms length rather than making them accessible.

The story is told from the point of view of a many whose wife is gone. Over the course of the novel, we learn a lot abo
May 27, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t really know what to say about this novel. I think it is a brave book. But it doesn’t quite fit together for me in a satisfying way. I wonder to whom the narrator is telling his story. Although I like complex characters, I find the wife too inconsistent to be believable, even in a magical realism sense into which this book seems to edge. The author certainly has a way with words; it is easy to believe that she is a poet. Some of the lines and stories-within-the-story are so beautiful, but ...more
Ryan Bradford
Apr 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started out not liking this book. I was not into the prospect of reading about a mumblecore relationship gone awry, but the prose held me. Even though I was ready to abandon it several times, I felt the writing was superb.

After finishing it, I can't stop thinking about it. It's a slow burn. I think what I love about it is that it's the anti-Manic Pixie Dream Girl book. (in very simple terms): The titular wife shows up with all these eccentricities that the narrator finds endearing at first, b
This is a highly original book about a very unoriginal subject: marriage. In very clear words a man evokes a beautiful image of his wife who left him after ten years of marriage. The stories about the wife are heartrending, funny and weird at the same time. She is quirky, intelligent, obsessed about telling the truth and she collects stories other people tell her. Her husband adores everything she says and does but after some time I began to wonder whether her quirkiness wasn't outright crazines ...more
May 19, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I really don't know what to make of this one. It was an entire book of "My wife used to say this. . . ." My wife would always do this. . . ." "X amount of time into our marriage, this happened. . . ."

It would have been a touching love story, but it was instead a little off-putting due to the fact that each anecdote related about the narrator's wife just seemed a little off. It wasn't the sort of behavior that would inspire most people to hang around.

(view spoiler)
Jessica Thompson
Jun 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love how ultimately intangible the characters in this book seemed to me. The narrator spends the entire book remembering his wife, who left him without a trace, but he seems utterly mystified about her. His own identity only seems to take shape juxtaposed against his memories of his wife, and I've already mentioned how ephemeral that turns out to be, so it's almost like a relative description without a referent. Skillfully done and a thrill to read, the overall effect of the book is absolutely ...more
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Edward Rathke
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I can't think of a novel or story I've ever read that means what that word means. Every page is haunting, and it haunts you, as it haunts the narrator, as his only wife haunts all the world.

My interview with Jac Jemc at Monkeybicycle.
I absolutely loved this book. The vignettes about the narrator's wife are poetic and enigmatic. They're engaging, sad, and inevitable. I highly recommend this book!

I also must mention that Jac is a college friend of mine and a wonderful writer :)
Sep 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"People don't need the world explained to them. You need the faith that they're smart enough to see with their own eyes, and that the only truth is the one they construct on their own." Love this... and the book is so precise that it took me a long while to finish it, but it was well worth it.
Aug 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant whisper of a book. Jemc has stunning moments in this portrait-driven novel told in non-linear flashes of stories, gestures, scenes, patterns, dialogue, and memories-the gaps, the unknowns, the mystery of a woman told by the man she left behind. Wonderful.
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“My wife loved the sidewalks of the city, but one summer she wanted to leave them behind so she could come back to them.” 0 likes
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