Nine Wives

Nine Wives

by Dan Elish

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Henry Mann is a 32-year-old bachelor who has spent the last few years watching everyone he knows get married. After the most recent wedding, where an intoxicated Henry proposes to no less than three women (including the rabbi), it dawns on him that being single isn't that much fun after all.

"Nine Wives is an inventive, original, funny, and big-hearted


Henry Mann is a 32-year-old bachelor who has spent the last few years watching everyone he knows get married. After the most recent wedding, where an intoxicated Henry proposes to no less than three women (including the rabbi), it dawns on him that being single isn't that much fun after all.

"Nine Wives is an inventive, original, funny, and big-hearted novel, a book I will recommend to anyone interested in good fiction."--Tim O'Brien, National Book Award-winning author of July, July

"Dan Elish has written an extremely funny book."—Jay Parini, author of The Apprentice Lover
"Dan Elish has created a Portnoy for the 21st century."—David Eddie, author of Chump Change

"Henry Mann wages battle between the real world and the imagined one with equal parts goofiness and suaveness. A very charming novel."—Antonya Nelson, author of Female Trouble

"Enough to put Bridget Jones to shame."—Helen Schulman, author of P.S.

"In a world where Sex and the City and Bergdorff Blondes tell us what we think we need to know about relationships, Elish has created a world far more real without stinting on the wit, insight, or hilarity."—Jonathan Rabb, author of The Book of Q

"Dan Elish at last shows women what lurks within the minds of men."—Helen Ellis, author of Eating the Cheshire Cat

"I read Nine Wives while Dan and I were dating. I didn't speak to him for a week, but I married him anyway."—Andrea Elish

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Endearingly neurotic, 32-year-old Jewish composer Henry Mann fantasizes about marriage with virtually every attractive, single woman he meets after being dumped by his girlfriend, Sheila. In the midst of his ongoing slump, Henry may have hit the jackpot with sexy Tamar Brookman when the two reconnect after a hot blind date, especially when Brookman later supports Henry in his ongoing effort to write a musical based on The Great Gatsby. Henry's other potential prospect is Christine, a pretty school teacher who first fails to set off sparks, but who starts to look like a catch after Tamar's trail of ex-boyfriends leads to jealousy and a schism. Elish's debut is noticeably short on plot, but he displays a nice feel for the ups and downs of New York single life and produces a solid, albeit stereotyped, roster of support players. Other small flaws abound: most of Henry's romantic moves are predictable, and some of the scenes in which he fantasizes about his would-be wives are painfully silly and mawkish. Elish shows potential in this likable first novel, but if this book were a blind date, Henry would barely get to first base, and he'll need a stronger follow-up effort to win over his potential audience. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Daydreams of that perfect someone, a romantic wedding and a better job: sounds like another chick-lit summer read, but this time our heroine is a he. At 32, Henry Mann is a little anxious. Everyone he knows seems to be tying the knot; this year alone he's been to eight weddings. But ever since his breakup with Sheila, his love life has been as barren as the Gobi Desert. It becomes quickly evident that Henry's real life would be more gratifying if he spent less time on his quixotic fantasy life, which runs the gamut from elaborate wedding scenarios to winning a Tony for the musical he's writing. Each of the novel's chapters bears the name of a fantasy woman, though only two are appropriate bridal material. Tamar is exciting but flaky; she dumps Henry after their first date, claiming she's a lesbian, but in fact she just used him to make her married boyfriend jealous. Christine, though funny and smart, has a unibrow, and that, according to Henry's standards, is a deal breaker. No matter: Tamar gives marching orders to her married man, and soon she and Henry have a real-life relationship. She helps him with his musical (an adaptation of The Great Gatsby featuring such soon-to-be hits as "My Pink Suit" and "My Honey Got Money") and encourages him to explore his long-hidden, hipper self, which results in a yellow stripe dyed in his dark hair. Can it last? Should Henry propose? And what about Christine, still waiting in the wings? Henry is an affable character, and the novel has its fair share of laugh-out-loud moments, though occasionally the narrative is weighed down by one too many of his musings. Moreover, despite the long masturbation scene, there is something disappointingly feminineabout this male perspective. A light comedic debut that's all too familiar for the genre.

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St. Martin's Press
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Henry Mann forced himself up the final steps to his fifth-floor walk-up with the heavy gait of a man who has had two marriage proposals rejected in the same evening. After fumbling with his keys, he finally managed to gain access to his small apartment, where he tossed his tie onto the beat-up console piano and flopped backward, spread eagle, onto the couch. The effects of the four whiskey sours were finally wearing off. Also, the three glasses of champagne and the two---or was it three?---tequila shots. But this was one night when Henry would have been perfectly happy to remain permanently plowed. Had he really done it? Proposed to two women? At the same lousy wedding? Sadly, the answer appeared to be yes. That the mother of the bride was actually pretty damned good-looking didn't soften the blow. That Charlotte, the cousin of the groom, had seemed flattered. Facts were facts: It was inappropriate to pledge one's eternal love to a total stranger, especially while attempting to keep the beat to an anemic rendition of "Brown Sugar." Further, it was wrong to grab the bride's mom by the waist directly after she had delivered an emotional rhymed toast. It was even worse to pay homage with one's own short poem: In your arms, the bride you carried. You're old! So what? Let's get married! That both of Henry's intendeds could tell that he was drunk and joking was beside the point. He had turned himself into the guy at the reception that everyone was talking about. Not because he was cute, smart, witty, tall, clefted, buff, talented, rich, or in any way desirable, but because he was, well, pathetic. That nice but sort of sad young man who better get a girlfriend---or better yet atherapist---fast, before his head caves in. When a full five minutes of staring at a small crack in the ceiling did nothing to lift his flagging spirits, Henry finally rolled off the couch and found his way to the bathroom. There he threw his coat over the shower curtain and doused his face with cold water. After that came a long, appraising look in the mirror. True, this had been what one friend had called "the year of weddings." Eight of them to be exact. And yes, it had been difficult to devote so many weekends to other people's happiness. The most confirmed playboy would have felt left out. But left out was one thing. Desperate was another. Was Henry really so lonely that his drunken alter ego had felt it had no other choice but to embark on a covert take-no-prisoners bridal mission? Before he had time to ruminate on the issue in greater and possibly more humiliating detail, Henry was saved by the phone. Given the lateness of the hour, he knew exactly who it was. Even so, at the first ring, Henry decided to screen. In his current state of mind he couldn't bear to talk to anyone, not even Glenn. But by ring number two a vain hope took root in his mind. After all, Henry wasn't usually a big drinker. What if all that booze had clouded his memory? What if he hadn't proposed to two total strangers at all? "No, dude," Glenn would reassure him. "The cousin followed you around all night like a homeless beagle, and Mrs. Miller grabbed your ass on the receiving line. They proposed to you!" Henry answered on the fourth ring. A millisecond after he pressed talk his fate was sealed. Before the receiver reached his ear he could hear Glenn's laugh registering loud and clear. "Man oh man, Henry!" Henry slumped on the piano bench as though he had taken a hard kick to the stomach."I know. I know."

"You are a case, my friend! A fucking case!" Of course, Henry knew it was true. On the other hand, where was the sympathy? Hadn't he been sympathetic when Glenn's wife, a thirty-seven-year-old knockout named Diana, had recently decided to take some time off in Colorado? Had he laughed? Made jokes? Of course not. Then again, Henry knew that a potential divorce was not joking material. But two drunken marriage proposals in a single night? Open season. "Alright, alright," Henry said, a bit gruffly. "I know it was bad, OK?" Glenn was undeterred.

"Did any of them say yes?" The perfect opening. Perhaps there was a way to save a little face. "Actually, the cousin took my hand on the dance floor," Henry said. "I think she liked me." Then he paused. "If only she didn't live in Zaire." "Focus on Mrs. Miller, then," Glenn said. "I don't care if she is pushing fifty-five, she is hot."

Henry had to agree. "Then again," Glenn went on, "I don't suppose Mr. Miller would appreciate his wife taking a second husband." "Guess not," Henry said. "It'd be pretty weird to be Jane's stepfather anyway." Henry knew it wasn't that funny a line, but the sound of Glenn's laughter worked wonders. For a brief moment, the cloud of mortification lifted and Henry saw himself in an entirely new light. True, he didn't rake in a ton of cash. On the other hand, he was only thirty-two, an excellent musician, a good writer, a perfectly acceptable athlete, disease free, and straight. The city was his to conquer. Who gave a damn about a couple of drunken proposals? No one. Henry almost believed it. He even started to stretch out on his couch, ready to get Glenn laughing at some of the other wedding guests. Then Glenn lowered the boom.

Meet the Author

Dan Elish is a critically acclaimed young adult novelist who has also written for television and theater. His books include Nine Wives. He lives in New York City with his wife and young daughter.

Dan Elish is a critically acclaimed young adult novelist who has also written for television and theater. His books include Nine Wives. He lives in New York City with his wife and young daughter.

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