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The Good Wife

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  2,046 ratings  ·  283 reviews
On a clear winter night in upstate New York, two young men break in to a house. Within minutes, an old woman is dead and the house is in flames. Across the country, Patty Dickerson's phone rings. It's her husband. He wants her to know that he and his friend have gotten themselves into a little trouble. So Patty's old life ends and a strange new one begins. For the next twe
Paperback, First Picador Edition, 312 pages
Published April 2006 by Picador
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Average rating 3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,046 ratings  ·  283 reviews

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Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This novel, The Good Wife by Stewart O'Nan takes place in the mid-1970s in a small town in southern New York state. The story begins with almost cinematic bursts of drama. Two scenes are playing out simultaneously; one scene involves Patty Dickerson, a twenty-seven-year-old woman who is expecting the birth of her first child. It's late at night and Patty is preparing for bed after a long and tiring day and she is anticipating the arrival home of her husband Tommy. This scene is so beautifully wr ...more
Mar 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction-i-own
This was an ok read for me. I was interested enough to finish. I wanted to see what life decisions the main character would make throughout the years her husband spends in prison. Mine would have been very different.
Apr 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
*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. ...more
Jun 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Nov 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2009
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
Lynn Asmus
Apr 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Good Wife is about Patty Dickerson and how she's pregnant with her first child patiently waiting for her husband, Tommy, to come home. It's a snowy night when the phone starts ringing off the hook. It's Tommy and he's in jail. He's a thief and got caught during a robbery. Unfortunately for Tommy, he's been convicted of arson and murder. So he receives a 25 year sentence for second degree murder.

Now this book is sad. Due to Tommy's actions/consequences.. Patty has to struggle day in and out t
Gerri Leen
Mar 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorite-author
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
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is so simple and straightforward, yet so engrossing. It is just the story of one wife making her way through her husband's incarceration, playing the hand that life has dealt her as best she can. This simple story is presented in a very objective, non-judgemental way, without sensationalizing or falling back on stereotypes. Patty felt very real and I felt very connected to her. Well done.


Writing 4
Story line 5
Characters 5
Emotional impact 4

Overall rating 4.5
Aaron Gertler
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In a world where domestic fiction were still the most respectable genre, The Good Wife could be our generation's Anna Karenina... or something.

This novel, without taking up too much space, tells the epic story of a woman abandoned, accidentally, by the man she loved. She manages to retain her dignity and honor throughout, but she's not perfect, and the years take a natural toll on her. Still, you can sense that she lives a real life even outside of the novel, that we're only seeing bits and piec
Feb 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2007-reads
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. ...more
Sep 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 25, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Dec 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobooks, 2009, literary
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Barbara H
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
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...... ...more
Jul 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
I like it, I love these deep, thoughtful, books, not for everyone.
Louise Behrendt Miller
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Another O’Nan day-in-the life story; this one about Patty and Tommy (actually , more about Patty), and what their life looks like after Tommy is convicted of murder. Unlike An American Marriage, this husband actually committed the crime; although his level of culpability is not clear ( he and a buddy, both drunk, break into an elderly woman’s house to steal some guns; she winds up dead; not clear who wielded the weapon). But Patty stands by her man, the wisdom of which is never at issue. The sto ...more
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
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,
Mar 05, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Feb 12, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Nancy Whitlatch
Apr 16, 2013 rated it did not like it
This was a rather lengthy book that takes place over the course of 28 years, and virtually nothing happens in the story. It's the story of a women who's husband is convicted of a crime that he claims he was innocent of, he in turn spends the next twenty-eight years in prison. The story goes on to tell about the mundane life the wife lives with her husband in prison. I expected the end to have a big finale explaining what really happened the night of the crime. He would not give the other guy up. ...more
Aug 07, 2007 added it
Recommends it for: the patient and depressed
completely depressing, and yet i couldn't. stop. reading.

i'd never really THOUGHT thought about what happens to the family members of people that go to jail for 25-40 years. i was so involved in it that at one point i personally felt years of my life being wasted on behalf of the main character, a woman who must raise her son alone after her husband makes one really bad decision that sends him to jail for half his life. but she sticks by him, amazingly, and yet at the end i understood why.

an int
Jan 04, 2009 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
Nov 20, 2009 rated it liked it
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
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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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