As her husband’s cronies begin trading in their middle-aged wives for buxom, younger versions, Leslie “Les” Carter feels her age, inadequacy and awkwardness in her bones. After several decades of marriage, her commitment to Wes has morphed her into little more than a housekeeper and meal-preparer as she sits in her empty nest without her two ungrateful children.
Just living the life.
When Les learns the bank account Wes has been safeguarding is far more substantial than he’s ever let on, the betrayal sends her over the top. It was enough that Wes had fobbed his wife off in Scotland after she suffers an accident, sending a friend’s wife to sit with her at the hospital while he keeps his tee time. But this? This bed of lies?
Without a word to anyone, Les escapes Atlanta to visit her brother in Charleston, land of their birth — and starts to do some rethinking of her own. She may be the last original wife among Wes’ power-player buddies . . . but is that really what she wants?
Dorothea Benton Frank’s The Last Original Wife is a summer read with heart. Though I didn’t fully connect to Leslie as a narrator, I felt for her situation and wanted to see her happy again.
The novel alternates between the viewpoints of both Wes and Les (how cute), and Wes came off as little more than a bully and a bore. As a woman, maybe my sympathy was just naturally with Leslie rather than her dull husband? I don’t know. But I found myself skimming Wes’ sections because he pretty much sucked, and maybe that was the point . . . but he just wasn’t entertaining.
Despite its rather serious subject matter (life, death, divorce), “entertaining” is a good word for The Last Original Wife. Frank’s playful tone makes Leslie a loveable character, even if I didn’t easily relate to her. She’s rich and sad and longing for connection, but I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at some of her antics. I just . . . wasn’t there with her.
But did I still enjoy the story? I did. It’s a light read with some interesting secondary characters. I could have done with less of the odd therapy scenes when the Carters are trying to sort out their issues, but there were realistic glimpses of marriage — and humor — there. Though I found the ending bittersweet, I appreciated where Frank had started Les and where she wound up. There was a sense of closure and fulfillment.
3 out of 5!