On the surface, the two mothers who drive this book are complete opposites. Dana is ex-military, traumatized, and on the run after an ordeal that left her pregnant and with no memory of what came before. She has retreated to what used to be her home, the abandoned railway tunnels that are her legacy after her town was gentrified into oblivion. Willa, on the other hand, lives in Herot Hall, the shiny suburban community where everyone lives the way they're supposed to. She was raised to be a useful ornament and she has performed admirably: her husband is wealthy, her son is healthy, and their meals are always planned a week in advance (alcohol doesn't count). But cracks are beginning to appear in her supposedly perfect life, and in Dana's hardscrabble existence, and the meeting of their two sons will prove to be a catalyst for a destructive, unstoppable chain of events. Reading this fierce tale of class, power, and feminism, I was acutely aware of the illusory nature of civility, of how quickly a smile can turn into a snarl. It's a story that seems to exist outside of time, concurrently ancient and ultramodern. The Mere Wife is the book I can't stop thinking about, a bloody, feral piece of modern mythology. Recommended By Lauren P., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
New York Times bestselling author Maria Dahvana Headley presents a modern retelling of the literary classic Beowulf, set in American suburbia as two mothers--a housewife and a battle-hardened veteran--fight to protect those they love in The Mere Wife.
From the perspective of those who live in Herot Hall, the suburb is a paradise. Picket fences divide buildings--high and gabled--and the community is entirely self-sustaining. Each house has its own fireplace, each fireplace is fitted with a container of lighter fluid, and outside--in lawns and on playgrounds--wildflowers seed themselves in neat rows. But for those who live surreptitiously along Herot Hall's periphery, the subdivision is a fortress guarded by an intense network of gates, surveillance cameras, and motion-activated lights.
For Willa, the wife of Roger Herot (heir of Herot Hall), life moves at a charmingly slow pace. She flits between mommy groups, playdates, cocktail hour, and dinner parties, always with her son, Dylan, in tow. Meanwhile, in a cave in the mountains just beyond the limits of Herot Hall lives Gren, short for Grendel, as well as his mother, Dana, a former soldier who gave birth as if by chance. Dana didn't want Gren, didn't plan Gren, and doesn't know how she got Gren, but when she returned from war, there he was. When Gren, unaware of the borders erected to keep him at bay, ventures into Herot Hall and runs off with Dylan, Dana's and Willa's worlds collide.
A retelling of Beowulf set in the suburbs, Maria Dahvana Headley's The Mere Wife turns the epic on its head, recasting the classic tale of monstrosity and loss from the perspective of those presumed to be on the attack.