Monday, June 21, 2010

Review: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives by Josie Brown

Lyssa Harper lives in a beautiful community in suburbia. She's a stay at home mom who runs her kids around to their day to day activities and is on the neighborhood board. Her friends on the board are just like her in so many ways. They are the ladies who lunch. They do yoga every day. They have a coffeeshop where they meet daily. And they keep abreast of the gossip in the neighborhood. Oh boy do they keep abreast of the gossip! So when perfect Harry Wilder and his aloof, ice princess wife Denise split, these women know it almost before Harry does. Then Lyssa meets Harry at the park where their daughters are playing and Harry breaks down. Because Lyssa is a nice person, she decides to introduce Harry into her group, never guessing what a shallow, predatory group of women they are. Initially all goes well but as Harry faces a nasty, bitter divorce with custody of his kids at stake, the last thing he needs is to worry about the machinations of the neighborhood's ruling cabal. And he manages to offend and alientate all of them except Lyssa, who continues to lend a hand and an ear despite being ostracized herself.

As the tension between Harry and the women grows, Harry's oldest son starts to act out, his daughter regresses and his soon to be ex-wife throws low blow after low blow at him. Meanwhile, Lyssa is examining her own marriage and is troubled by what she sees. Her friendship with Harry growing and taking on an increased importance in her life, her friendship with the other wives waning, she takes stock of what in her childhood made her the way that she is, how that allowed to her marry Ted, what Ted really wants, and how she can find contentment in her life.

The reader guesses the ending of the book long before it comes and while the outcome is perfectly suited for a movie, it is perhaps a twist too far in terms of believability. On the other hand, it offers poetic justice and is a satisfying outcome for this fun and frothy beach read. Brown has drawn a convincing and accurate picture of the malaise that infects certain bits of suburbia from the former exec who runs the neighborhood board with an iron fist to the outrage that erupts when children are hurt (even just in the normal course of growing up). She has balanced the seeming frivolity of the stay at home mom's day with the frenzied activities and the masterful planning that is involved in running a family. Her main characters are sympathetic and likable. The plot clips along. And the subtle (and not so subtle) look at stagnant marriage offers a bit of food for thought throughout as Lyssa and Harry negotiate the minefield that is modern suburbia. I gulped this down in less than a day in between driving my kids hither, thither and yon and enjoyed the experience greatly. It is escapist and light and as satisfying as a cold drink by the pool. And from the way Harry is described, he can be my pool boy whenever he wants!

Thanks to Sarah from Simon and Schuster for sending me a review copy of this book and allowing me to participate in this tour.

See what others think. Other blogs reviewing the book today include:

All About {n}
The Book Tree
Books Gardens & Dogs
Arms of a Sister
A Room Without Books Is Empty
Busy Julie
Bookin’ with Bingo
The Down Home Diva
Me, My Book, and the Couch
Starting Fresh
Frugal Plus
Avid Reader
Avid Reader
Eclectic Book Lover
Not Quite Susie
Books and Needlepoint
Books with a Cup of Coffee
Knitting and Sundries
Just Another New Blog
Simply Stacie
Must Read Faster
Booksie’s Blog
Reminder List
My Five Monkeys
My Book Views
Taking Time For Mommy
I Heart Book Gossip
Book Junkie
Jeanne's Ramblings
Broken Teepee
Tethered Mommy
Just Jennifer Reading
So Many Books, So Little Time
Reading With Tequila
A Journey of Books
Bella’s Novellas
CuzinLogic’s Blog


  1. I received this book in NYC at Book Blogger Con and promptly handed it to my mom, who I think would enjoy it more than I. If she sends me a review, I guess we'll find out what she thought.

  2. Serena brought this book home from the blogger con for me, and I'm looking forward to reading it. I don't mind predictable when it comes to these types of books. It sounds like a fun read.

  3. This one's on my wish list. I don't know if I'll get to it this summer or not, but it does sound like a perfect beach read!

  4. Sounds great! I've had my eye on this one for a while. I enjoyed your review and hope to read it soon :)

  5. Looks like a good beach read, but I am tired of modern suburbia! It's not as interesting when you live in it.


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