The Wife's Tale
Mary Gooch has heard the comment so many times. “Such a pretty face.” She knows the rest of the observation, never voiced: “Such a disgrace, her voluminous body.” Mary blames the media for glorifying the gorgeous anorexics. As much as she wants to, she can’t conquer her voracious appetite. Her universe consists of a path from the couch to the refrigerator. She wishes constantly that she could lose weight. She recognizes that she is a forty-three-year-old brunette, five and a half feet tall, weighing three hundred and two pounds. Not healthy.
Mary has been obese since childhood, with a bizarre appetite. The summer before her twelfth year in high school, even Mary is surprised when she loses weight. She begins to see a future for herself, since she is no longer enslaved by the details of food.
The newly slim Mary gets a job in a drugstore. A customer, Jimmy Gooch, is on crutches after a terrible car accident. When she helps him get his prescription filled, he is waiting in the parking lot to take her home. They marry, feeling that they are destined for each other.
Twenty-five years later, Mary plans a glorious anniversary dinner. She confirms reservations at the lake, orders cakes from the bakery. Her husband worries about the cost, but he loves his wife and wants her to be happy. Then why did Jimmy Gooch disappear right before the celebration?
Lori Lansens puts the reader into Mary’s compulsive/obsessive phobia as she returns to her prodigious eating and regains her weight, even more than before. Her only thought, her only life is food—gigantic, huge amounts. Yet her total absorption with herself and her lack of any thought for anyone except herself and food becomes tiresome. The reader wishes for action, tired of the narrow focus, losing interest, but reading on to find out what happened to Jimmy.
The pace of The Wife’s Tale picks up when Mary finally abandons refrigerator, pantry, and home to search for her husband. Her constant embarrassment—she glances away, never looking at people, hoping no one looks at her—touches a sympathetic reader. Mary recognizes everyone stares at her as if she were a freak.
Lacking even a minimum of clues, Mary leaves Canada and flies to California, hoping Jimmy Gooch will be at his mother’s house. Surely she can find leads as to where to search next. Now all she cares about is finding her husband.
She is no longer living as a woman entirely devoted to eating. She feels as if a light is within. Her new Hispanic friend, Jesus, sums it up for her. “You eat because you have to. You taste because you can. Sometimes you enjoy, because you’re alive.”
Where did Jimmy Gooch go? Why? The Wife’s Tale ends with the reader searching the twists and turns, but finding no answers. Lori Lansens does not achieve a satisfying conclusion.