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The Last Original Wife
By Dorothea Frank
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright © 2013 Dorothea Frank
All rights reserved.
Leslie and Wesley's Present Situation
ATLANTA, SEPTEMBER 2012
Welcome to Saint Magnolia's Wounded Theater. At least that's what
I called it. Within these slick walls reside Atlanta's pish- posh team
of premier psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, and relationship counsel-
ors who specialize in the broken hearts/crushed egos of the privi-
leged and renowned. Their lavish confessionals, perched high above
the city, are, well, breathtaking. I was here because my husband,
Wesley, insisted this was the only place he'd even consider receiving,
as he was loath to say, therapy. And as it was on my first visit, the vast
waiting area was packed.
Just for the record? Wesley needed therapy. I. Absolutely. Did. Not.
The circular reception area held a large round workstation of
bird's- eye maple. The countertops of deep brown granite were chis-
eled and polished. Behind them stood two young women who ap-
peared to have fallen from the pages of Vogue magazine. Above them
hung a chandelier worthy of an opera house that I imagined sailed
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right to America directly from the lips of the finest glassblowers of
Murano. Every square foot of their offices was as beautiful as a ses-
sion was insanely expensive, leaving me to wonder where exactly
was this much heralded recession?
“I'm here to see Dr. Katz,” I said.
“And you're Mrs. . . . ?”
“Thank you.” She pecked around on what looked like a keyboard
from the Starship Enterprise and smiled when she found my name
among those on his appointment calendar. I was officially entered
into the captain's log.
“Please make yourself comfortable in the waiting area. There's
bottled water . . .”
My heels clicked across the beige marble flooring that was shot
with veins of black and gold. When the veins of gold caught a stream
of afternoon light, they sparkled like the proverbial streets of para-
dise. Perhaps some people thought all this grandeur was a comfort;
you know, they must be good at what they do if they can afford all
this? Not me. The whole drama was a grand demonstration of con-
spicuous consumption and their complete disregard for carbon foot-
print. I shuddered.
I took a small bottle of cold water from the refreshment station
and sank into one of only two unoccupied overstuffed velvet club
chairs, unscrewed the cap, and took a long drink. Okay, I'd admit
this much, as off- putting as the swank trappings were to me? Well,
the chairs were like a beautiful womb, upholstered in swirls of deep
purple and olive on a field of smooth ecru velvet. I could've slept
in them. No, I could've lived in them. If I thought no one would
have noticed, I might have pushed one through the door, down the
hall, into the elevator, and somehow with God's grace, I would've
the last original wife / 5
smooshed it into the back of my car. Just the thought of it gave me
a little thrill, and this was a time in my life when thrills were not
happening for me in Atlanta.
In between the chairs were small tables that held magazines on
mental health, extreme adventure travel, vegan living, and every
kind of yoga. You could tell a lot about the soul of an organization by
the reading material in its waiting area. For my money, these par-
ticular choices leaned a little to the side of wacko, but, I reminded
myself, my son was a granola- boy who had been living in an ashram
in Nepal for the last three years while he contemplated the uni-
verse instead of completing his MBA. It wasn't like Bertie aspired
to climb Everest and then come home and become an adult, not
that climbing Everest is a childish thing to do. I'm suggesting that's
a lofty goal. No, this was something different. He was completely
under the spell of all things Hindu, Himalayan, and Tibetan. His
current passion was to photograph the people as they went about
their lives in the spectacular landscape near the Roof of the World.
He was transfixed by the exotic temples and stupas, the smells of
burning yak butter candles, and Buddhist monks seated in long lines
on low cushions, chanting in guttural tones. He was completely
taken by the regular people, their devotion to their faith, and their
pilgrimages to Lake Manasarovar. His plan was to sell his pictures
to a magazine like National Geographic or maybe put together a doc-
umentary for PBS with Bill Moyers. I have to confess that while his
photographs were out of this world stunningly beautiful, neither
of these goals had yet to come anywhere close to fruition. So my
beautiful son, Bertie, was still woven into the umbilical cord of his
I have never been able to mail Bertie an additional check for
even fifty dollars because my husband had some very deep- rooted
and completely exhausting control issues. Therefore, I had lived on
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a very, very strict budget and never had an extra fifty dollars. All
spending had to be justified in the accounting department of Wesley
Carter's stingy brain.
This unpleasant detail was one more item on my list entitled
Why Am I Living Like This? Here's how it went: Bertie called Wes and
they made small talk. Eventually Bertie would politely and humbly
ask him for some money to hold him over until this deal or that deal
came through. Wes pitched a fit about it and then took it out on me
for a month or so until Bertie called again. Life as Wes's emotional
dumping ground had long ago become tiresome and ridiculous. And
odd as this may seem, part of me envied and also admired Bertie's
courage to be a nonconforming, unmaterialistic seeker. The only
Excerpted from The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Frank. Copyright © 2013 Dorothea Frank. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
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