What I love best about Jane Porter also happens to be what most punches me in the gut: her work really, really draws you in.
You’re not reading about the action, kindly removed from the situation with a cool beverage in an ivory tower; you are all up in the drama, standing sticky in the middle of the muck when things get serious. If you’re looking for an engrossing read you simply cannot put down (and who isn’t?), The Good Wife is awesome. But when your head is full of nonsense and you just want to escape from reality for a bit, it’s terrible.
But also terribly awesome. Because maybe you want to get involved in someone else’s disaster for a bit! Feel their anguish, their pain, their confusion! . . . But maybe you don’t. Maybe you want to just veg out, relax, decompress.
I could not decompress with this book.
Don’t let me give the impression I didn’t like it, however — definitely not true. This is the third in Porter’s Brennan Sisters series (preceded by The Good Woman and The Good Daughter), and suffice it to say I am emotionally invested in this complicated, realistic and loving clan. Picking up The Good Wife, which focuses on sister Sarah, felt like reuniting with family.
And just like family, it got messy. Sarah is the wife of handsome and successful baseball player Boone Walker, a charismatic man who spends more time on the road than with his young family. Left to single parent in Florida, far removed from her Californian crew, Sarah is reeling from two recent losses and struggling to move past Boone’s previous infidelities (not a spoiler — addressed much earlier in the series).
Happening alongside Sarah’s struggles is the story of Lauren, a 30-something baker and entrepreneur whose teen son died tragically the year before the story opens. Also fighting through grief, Lauren is trying to make sense of a new world in which she’s a mother without a child . . . and must try to find a way to move forward in the crumbling aftermath of her previous life. When a sweet, smart teammate of Boone’s expresses an interest in her, leading to the first glimpse of dating she’s experienced in decades, Lauren must dig through the wreckage of the past to walk shakily into the future.
I don’t know who I adored more: Sarah or Lauren. Though they initially live in different parts of the country and are marching into different battles, the two women are remarkably similar, too. I like that Porter doesn’t focus on the Brennan family to the detriment of every other character in the novel, rendering anyone peripheral to the background; anyone introduced in The Good Wife is real and interesting and totally flesh-and-blood, making it a dynamic and personal reading experience.
And it did feel personal. When Sarah hurt, I hurt; when Lauren hurt, I really hurt. It’s a testament to Porter’s skill that she has me so deeply involved with her characters that I can barely tolerate parting with them. It’s been a long time since I got hooked on a series, and the Brennan Sisters books have definitely done that for me. Though sometimes the attention to detail felt exhausting, I still can’t help but marvel at the way Sarah and Lauren’s lives were brought so beautifully to life for me.
If you haven’t read anything by Porter, do yourself a favor and start with The Good Woman. Meg has a big role in this one, too, and the impact of events won’t be the same without gaining your own history with the characters. Porter’s third installment is heartbreaking and thoughtful and touching, and I highly recommend this — and the series.
4.25 out of 5!