I’ve always admitted that I’m a sucker for the unreliable narrator. The thing is, there isn’t an unreliable narrator in Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle. It is the reader. You are the unreliable one. She makes YOU unreliable. Ok. Let’s be fair to ourselves. As readers we have ALL been there. We have all thought we had a book figured out. We thought meh. This is an ok book, but I already know what is happening, what is going to happen blah… blah… blah. And then BOOM! You realize you are a complete idiot and the author is the author for a reason.
Yeah. No. This is NOT what I mean. I can’t really say more than I just did. In fact, I should just tell you the following embarrassing story and then tell you to GO PRE-ORDER THE BOOK and just end the review. Because to do anything else would just kill the whole thing. But since I’ve now rewritten this review a good FIFTEEN THOUSAND times. I’m going to tell the promised embarrassing story and then TRY to give you some bits and pieces that spoil nothing and demonstrate some serious writing chops of one, Ms. Belle.
Thank you to Harlequin Books, HarperCollins, Park Row Books and Netgalley for the Arc in exchange for an honest review.
Embarrassing story (I swear on the boys): You might as well just plan to read Dear wife on a day you have nowhere to go and/or a night when you don’t have to get up the next day. Yes, I can be one of those readers who says…. eh, just one more chapter and ends up reading till 4 A.M. But being a lifeguard is tiring and I couldn’t put my Kindle down and Kindles hurt. So, when I was holding it and didn’t realize I fell asleep until the sucker hit me square in the nose? Yeah. It hurt. That takes the whole making reading a contact sport to a whole new, literal, level.
Now, here’s what I can tell you without spoiling anything. Dear Wife, is a thriller, without a doubt. It is a quick read that shoots out the gate and doesn’t let go. Told from three points of view- Beth, Jeffrey and Marcus- it is an agonizing race against time.
Here’s the thing. Within the thrilling suspense you expect from a domestic suspense novel, Belle masterfully utilizes flashbacks to cover more than the obvious aspects of domestic violence.
She does a deep dive on sensitive subjects like the PTSD it causes, the family dynamics of those related to both the abuser and the abused. Furthermore, shedding light on questions that society often asks: why doesn’t she just leave? Why does she stay? What is wrong with her? Even if Belle can’t always provide answers, at least the questions are raised.
I learned another lesson that day, one that in the end, was much more sinister: my leaving was not just about me. You would mow down anyone who got in your way.
It isn’t a snap decision. Finally trying to break away and even when the attempt is made, you don’t just make a clean break.
The PTSD that Belle emulates throughout the stories shows how years of abuse at the hands of a spouse can make it torturous at every turn. The doubt, the fear, the nightmares. Simple human nature such as trust being stripped away with every punch, slap, threat and blow over the years makes it difficult to make a plan to get away from the person that caused the pain to begin with. Belle takes readers through every terrifying nightmare, chipped away piece of humanity and desperate decision with honest and raw authenticity.
Lastly and maybe most surprisingly is the appropriate timing and utilization of sarcastic humor and wit. There are very well-placed times where characters are so flabbergasted at themselves, at the situations they are in that the dark humor comes out in ways that are very relatable. Maybe I found it relatable because dark humor has always been a coping mechanism for me, but I can see it happening. I have seen it happen. And I think if overly done it would take away from the gravity of the issues and thriller genre at hand. Badly timed and it would be ludicrous. Belle has the knack for both the timing and the balance. I would love to quote one or two but no… can’t do that either.
Truthfully, I’m surprised I could tell you this much. It did take 15,000 edits (including some right up till this morning) and one embarrassing whack by my Kindle. But I hope it is enough. Dear Wife is a thrilling, heart-pounding read that also speaks to essential issues (a couple I haven’t even mentioned- because spoilers) at its heart. It is my first read by Belle. It will not be my last.