The Ninth Wife (TLC Tour Review)

June 27, 2011

Book cover for "The Ninth Wife" by Amy Stolls.Title: The Ninth Wife

Author: Amy Stolls

Publication Year: 2011

Pages: 496

Genre: Fiction

Source: Review copy from the publisher, through TLC Book Tours

From the cover:

What sane woman would consider becoming any man’s ninth wife?

Bess Gray is a thirty-five-year-old folklorist and amateur martial artist living in Washington, DC. Just as she’s about to give up all hope of marriage, she meets Rory, a charming Irish musician, and they fall in love. But Rory is a man with a secret, which he confesses to Bess when he asks for her hand: He’s been married eight times before. Shocked, Bess embarks on a quest she feels she must undertake before she can give him an answer. With her bickering grandparents (married sixty-five years), her gay neighbor (himself a mystery), a shar-pei named Stella, and a mannequin named Peace, Bess sets out on a cross-country journey — unbeknownst to Rory — to seek out and question the wives who came before. What she discovers about her own past is far more than she bargained for.

I think that the most interesting part of this story, for me, was reading Rory’s account of his eight marriages.

Stolls set up the story of The Ninth Wife as a narrative that alternates points of view, mostly between Bess and Rory. At first, it’s not really clear what the purpose is of Rory’s chapters, where he tells the story of each wife in turn, though it makes sense later. And for me, these little interludes were the interesting part. It was fun to read about the very different women who he married, and the very different ways in which they interacted and in which they were no longer married later on.

Maybe this is a function of my age or where I am in life, but I just couldn’t relate to Bess that well. It’s strange, no? You would think that I would identify more with the female character in the book, the protagonist, but I just didn’t. In fact, at times, I found her kind of irritating and boring. I can’t quite put my finger on why that is. But I’m pretty sure that most people wouldn’t have that problem while reading this novel – because I can’t actually think of any good, objective reason for my ambivalence towards her. Bess seemed like I should have found her interesting enough – she had a good job, a good backstory, etc. – but it just didn’t click for me.

In the end, though, that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the story in any way. It took a little bit for me to get into The Ninth Wife, slow reading at first. Once I got about a quarter of the way in, though, and the story began taking shape and really coming together, it was hard for me to put the book down. I wanted to know about Rory’s other wives, I wanted to know what would happen when Bess tried to meet them, and I wanted to know whether Bess and Rory would end up getting married in the end. It was sort of a mystery, at least the kind that I like … with complex interpersonal relationships and lots of details to pick up on.

You might enjoy The Ninth Wife if you enjoy reading about intricate stories and difficult life decisions, or about people’s intertwining histories and the ways that everything overlaps.

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