Friday, January 23, 2015

Review: My Father's Wives by Mike Greenberg

When you see things on the news about people who are on their umpty-umpth marriage, you wonder a little bit about them, don't you? What drives them to continue to marry person after person when their previous marriages have ended unhappily? What do they expect to find in their latest marriage that they haven't found yet? And when there is a child or children involved, how does this serial monogamy affect them? In Mike Greenberg's newest novel, main character Jonathan Sweetwater's father was a person like this, marrying six wives in total, and being too busy in those relationships to be in his son's life. It is the quest to learn who his father is, coupled with a staggering blow to his idea of what his own marriage is that drives the novel onwards.

Jonathan is a high powered banker type who lives quite well. He has the perfect wife, the perfect children, and the perfect life. He is not only successful in what he does, being a favorite of the boss, but he comes from money and is the only child of the famous, liberal, late Senator Percival Sweetwater III. But being the Senator's child has left emotional scars and a strong desire to be a better father and husband than his own father was. Percy, you see, walked out of his son's life on his ninth birthday, when he left Jonathan's mother, wife number one, for wife number two in the eventual line of six. Mostly Jonathan doesn't pay any attention to this sad past but when he comes home from work early one day and catches a glimpse of a naked man in his guest room with a woman who can only be his wife, thinking that his life is shattered, rather than confront his wife, he is suddenly obsessed with tracking down his father's former wives and trying to learn from them who Percival Sweetwater III really was behind the legend and how that has formed Jonathan's own character.

The connection between his wife's infidelity and his father's lifelong search for the perfect woman is tough to make. In all of his searching for explanations about his father, Jonathan doesn't really seem to find any answers and he waffles between worries he's too like his father or not at all like his father. His encounters with Percy's ex-wives all seem to follow a similar pattern and do little to shed light on the real man.  Interestingly, none of the ex-wives seem particularly surprised by Jonathan's appearance in their lives despite his never being a presence while they were married to his father nor do they have much personal or revealing to say.  They certainly can't speak to how Percy's behaviour might have formed Jonathan's character or why that would lead to his wife having an affair.  At the end of his quest, he thinks he can explain why his father married each of the women but that still doesn't really connect to his own marriage and relationship.

In between searching out Percy's ex-wives, Jonathan occasionally returns home and agonizes over his own marriage and the mystery of how he could have seen what he saw. The mystery of this is actually not a mystery at all to the reader, who has easily sussed out the ending long before Jonathan has a clue. As a result, the novel's outcome is completely predictable. The secondary characters, especially his wife and kids, are one dimensional. His billionaire, hard-partying, basketball playing boss is more well-rounded than they are. And his father's wives are not terribly well distinguished from each other. So when he draws conclusions about why his father married each of them, we just have to take his word for it that this one worshipped him but wasn't bright enough and that one was too intelligent and not worshipful enough, etc. because his brief interactions with the women don't show that to the reader. The concept, what we each look for in marriage, what perfect really means, and whether or not it is even possible, is interesting but I'm not sure it quite got there in the end.

For more information about Mike Greenberg and the book, take a look at the book's web page, follow him at Twitter, or check out the book's Goodreads page. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. The premise of this novel is interesting; it sounds like it should've been developed in more depth. Great review!

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.

  3. After watching him on my husband's ESPN shows for years, I've really been wondering what his novels would be like. Thanks for answering that question for me.


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