Paper Wife

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At the heart of Linda Spalding's haunting new novel is the relationship between two young women, Kate and Lily. It's the sixties and they have known each other half their lives. Closer than sisters, they have chosen each other. But at university their friendship is tested when Lily betrays her friend in the face of passion. Confronted with the pain of disloyalty, and the need to resolve her own desires, she runs away to Mexico only to find herself entangled in a series of ...
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first Fair [ No Hassle 30 Day Returns ] [ Edition: first ] Publisher: Ecco Pr Pub Date: 4/1/1996 Binding: Hardcover Pages: 238.

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Overview

At the heart of Linda Spalding's haunting new novel is the relationship between two young women, Kate and Lily. It's the sixties and they have known each other half their lives. Closer than sisters, they have chosen each other. But at university their friendship is tested when Lily betrays her friend in the face of passion. Confronted with the pain of disloyalty, and the need to resolve her own desires, she runs away to Mexico only to find herself entangled in a series of sinister events she can hardly comprehend.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The clear, lyrical surface of Spalding's luminous second novel (after Daughters of Captain Cook) belies the powerful story it relates. Set in Colorado and Mexico, the complex but concise tale traces the close friendship of two girls: beautiful, wealthy, self-possessed Kate; and Lily, whose impoverished background and unhappy upbringing makes her covet the life of her privileged friend. While attending college during the Vietnam War years, Kate falls in love with Turner, a free spirit. Their relationship makes Lily feel spurned by Kate and obsessed with Turner until, at an all-night party, Lily accosts a drunken Turner while wearing Kate's clothes and-thus disguised-sleeps with him. She discovers she is pregnant, and her shame at her betrayal prompts her to flee to an "orphanage" in Mexico, where she can have the baby out of sight and give it up for adoption. The narrative structure gives the novel much of its immediacy. Lily's first-person account of her harrowing journey to Mexico (where the novel opens) and her subsequent life as an English teacher to orphans while she awaits the birth of her baby, is woven together with her previous life and history in Colorado. In a fascinating turn of events, Turner, acting on Kate's advice, goes to Mexico in search of Lily. Throughout, Spalding's elegant prose evokes Mexico as a pure sensory experience. The novel's finale is surprising and breathtaking-yet thoroughly earned by Spalding's full, sympathetic exploration of Lily's troubled character. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
Despite an intriguing start full of psychologically complex relationships and ambiguous connections, Spalding's second novel (after Daughters of Captain Cook, 1989) pales halfway through without ever regaining its initial vibrancy.

The uneven tale of Lily's life begins when, as a young girl, she is deposited with her grandmother Zozzie following the mysterious death of her mother. Zozzie lives underground, an apt metaphor for their sheltered life together: Grandpa didn't have time to build anything more than a cement cellar before he died, so the woman and child wander about in cool darkness, hidden from the world. At age seven, though, Lily is introduced to a world of sunshine and privilege when she is befriended by Kate and her wealthy parents. The girls become inseparable, sharing some inscrutable bond. When they leave for college together, not even the new-found mystery of boys or the upheavals generated by the Vietnam War can separate their union—until, that is, Turner shows up and entrances them both. On a drunken night Turner breaks his pledge of love to Kate and sleeps with Lily—engendering not only a child but a new plot direction. Lily flees to Mexico to have the baby, intending to put it up for adoption, but instead finds herself teaching orphans for the sinister Mr. Hogan, a baby-broker. Here, the pace of the story shifts from the gently contemplative to fast-moving as Kate sends Turner to retrieve Lily, and the two become entangled in baby-smuggling plots and Cuban refugees—and then stumble across what may be a child pornography ring.

Spalding has a fine way with conjuring complex, mysterious characters, of building a sense of barely perceptible foreboding. Unfortunately, though, she overshadows these elements with her hectic plot—one that in the end brings us no closer to understanding the characters she so nicely crafts.

From the Publisher
"A brilliantly disturbing story about a modern wife's love and loss, set in a sultry island paradise where mangos rot under foot, and where innocence and corruption both wear the face of a lovely child. A novel one can't forget." --Victoria Glendinning

"Obsessive passion is at the heart of Linda Spalding's excellent first novel. A complex, subtle work." --The Evening Standard

"If you have just picked up this book don't put it down. The writing here is amongst the bet you will read this year - the people between the covers are unforgettable and their story is a shocker: it rises like shark in paradise." --Timothy Findley

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780880014533
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/1996
  • Edition description: 1st Ecco ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 5.79 (w) x 8.84 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Spalding's first novel was the highly praised Daughters of Captain Cook. She lives in Toronto where she is the editor and publisher of Brick, a Literary Journal.

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