Color me disappointed.
I was really excited to read this book. The premise is something that entirely blew me away and I was so intrigued by it. The Innocent Wife is about a woman who starts writing to a prisoner who is on Death Row, convicted for the deaths of numerous young women. They fall in love and decide to get married. But then some new DNA evidence comes into play, Dennis (that’s the guy convicted for the murders) gets exonerated and our main protagonist, Sam, has to learn to live with her new, now innocent, husband. I love true crime a lot (Making a Murderer and Serial are some of my favorite things) and this had that exact vibe. Plus, I was always interested in the psychology of women who became “groupies” for prisoners, so I was so excited to read this. Sadly, the book did not deliver.
It’s very hard for me to read a book where I don’t like any of the characters. Now, maybe some of you will be like well, that’s kind of the point and to that I say – NOPE. I am a huge fan of unlikable characters. Think Gillian Flynn’s heroines or Lionel Shriver’s characters. I am there for people not being great. Especially if it’s women. But what I need is depth. And I got none of that. I feel like the author tried to do a character study of these people, but I felt like that did not work at all. Samantha had a very clumsy characterization, and I felt like none of her actions made sense. For me, even with an unreliable narrator, or someone who is like Samantha, and has very low self-esteem, a character has to have grounding. They have to make sense and these people just don’t. Their actions and their words and conversations just don’t really go together and I had a really hard time feeling anything for any of them.
Like with Dennis, I think the author wanted us to be uncertain about him, the sort of did he/didn’t he, but it was all very forced and artificial and there was none of that uncertainty there.
Listen, I will take characters over plot any day. ANY DAY. But if you have a book that’s just things happening and they are not there for characterization – then I need a plot. If you have all this exposition, all of this empty space of just mundane life without using that to develop your characters, then you might as well give a plot that will grab me. There was no plot and no characterization here. It was just descriptions of days upon days and then, at 90 percent, we got some explanations (which were so anticlimactic, let me tell you) and the book wrapped up and left a lot to be desired.
The thing I struggled with the most is how unbelievable all of this was. I could not suspend my disbelief for a second. The author kept dropping celebrity names to ground the story in reality and it did not work. She also kept putting these matter of fact feminist things that were just there to make a side character, Carrie, work. And it felt so strained and forced and unbelievable and made it seem like she was using feminism as a trend. And just the rest of it was so ridiculous. Them falling in love, friendships that didn’t make sense, the fact that Dennis never saw a phone before, THE ENDING – I just didn’t believe any second of this book could have happened.
I found the writing to be a little bit clunky and I felt it lacked in vividness. I don’t think the author managed to transfer feelings the right way. I didn’t feel uneasy or scared when I know I was supposed to. She was explaining these horrifying things happening to girls and I was sitting there with a straight face thinking when is this book gonna be over.
I read this whole thing. There was something about the small town despair and the setting that worked for me. Also, I hoped the ending would be somewhat different and the rest of the story might have worked better for me if that were the case. I think the way the author portrayed Dennis struggling with the adjustment to life after 20 years of prison was interesting and the way the community treated him was also well done. There was also some stuff about online life and discussions and things and I think that was done well.
I personally did not have a lot of fun with this book. While it had some slightly redeemable qualities about it, it really left a lot to be desired, for me personally. So I would not recommend you pick this one up.
Rating: 2 stars
I’d love to hear your thoughts! I know there were a lot of people who liked this, so I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this one if you read it!
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*Thank you to both Netgalley and Edelweiss for the review copy of this book