A Book of the Month Club Selection
“Gossipy, scandalous housewives behaving badly might make this the juiciest read of the season."Library Journal (starred review)
"Sultry, salacious and utterly unpredictable....You'll devour it."Riley Sager, New York Times bestselling author of Home Before Dark
The Hunting Wives share more than target practice, martinis, and bad behavior in this novel of obsession, seduction, and murder.
Sophie O'Neill left behind an envy-inspiring career and the stressful, competitive life of big-city Chicago to settle down with her husband and young son in a small Texas town. It seems like the perfect life with a beautiful home in an idyllic rural community. But Sophie soon realizes that life is now too quiet, and she's feeling bored and restless.
Then she meets Margot Banks, an alluring socialite who is part of an elite clique secretly known as the Hunting Wives. Sophie finds herself completely drawn to Margot and swept into her mysterious world of late-night target practice and dangerous partying. As Sophie's curiosity gives way to full-blown obsession, she slips farther away from the safety of her family and deeper into this nest of vipers.
When the body of a teenage girl is discovered in the woods where the Hunting Wives meet, Sophie finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation and her life spiraling out of control.
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|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Things are different tonight. Electric and humming. There's a charge building in the air, crackling and buzzing through me, and I can pinpoint the moment this morning when everything shifted.
When my flat, dull routine of walking from room to room, collecting wads of wilted laundry, became something more luminous, something pulsing with an energy of anticipation so that even then, as I stuffed the washer with clothes and shook a thin layer of soap flakes over the top, I knew my day would follow a different course than the one usually mapped out by me, a stay-at-home mom.
I'm at the local wine bar now, waiting for Erin. We're meeting for happy hour and I'm outside at one of the bistro tables, the light from the sun dancing in my glass of chardonnay, the taste buttery and sharp on the back of my tongue.
It was a frigid thirty-eight degrees here this morning, but by late afternoon, it had climbed to eighty, our first warm snap this spring, and I'm taking full advantage, sitting out here like this.
I'm tapping on my iPhone, scrolling through my Facebook feed, but finding nothing interesting. Just more back-to-school posts even though we're well into March. It's endless. Day #63 of second grade! Or Time please slow down! They grow up too fast!-the kinds of updates I wince at and can't bring myself to post. I place my phone down on the table and stretch my bare legs, letting the sun warm them.
It feels so good to be in a dress; I can't remember the last time I wore one, and I've piled my hair in a neat but relaxed bun. Hoping for chic, but effortlessly so. Silver earrings in the shape of feathers tickle my neck as I turn to scan the crowd, hoping to spot them as soon as they arrive.
This morning, when everything tilted, so that my day would end here instead of at the dinner table with Graham and Jack, watching Jack mop up spaghetti sauce with an elbow of crusty bread, adorable streaks of orange painting his cherub cheeks, I had just finished my morning jog on the trail that runs through the woods near our house. I had stepped inside the back door and peeled off my yoga pants, which were drenched with sweat and sucking and clinging to my thighs, and slid back into my comfy flannel pjÕs. It's cold here. Not Chicago cold, of course, but the humidity makes it a vicious, different kind of cold that grabs its icy paws around your bones and doesn't let go.
Still shivering, I padded to the kitchen and steamed some milk for a second latte and rubbed my hands together, trying to warm up.
I powered up my laptop in the home office-just a small nook, really, in the back parlor-and was just beginning to type in my password for Facebook when I heard a loud banging at the front door.
I figured it was the FedEx man with yet another of my online purchases. Maybe a case of Illy espresso-our favorite-which I used to buy at the flagship store in the city, or, perhaps, the set of lime-green throw pillows I'd been waiting for. It's hard to find cute textiles in this town, and lately I've fixated on making the inside of my house look like a dreamy spread from Pinterest, or, more specifically, how I imagine the inside of Margot's home looks.
I've only seen glimpses of the outside, of course, from our mutual friends' photos on Facebook, but all of that changed this morning when I was invited into her world.
The loud knocking was followed by the chime of the doorbell, then a quick, staccato rapping, so I jumped up and rushed to the front door. Where I found Mrs. Murphy from down the street. Yet again. She's persistent. Ever since we moved in, she's found an excuse to pop by at least once a week.
"Hello, dear," she said, aggressively thrusting a crate of blushing grapefruits toward me.
"Thanks so much for these, Mrs. Murphy. They're gorgeous."
She craned her head around my shoulder, clearly fishing for an invite inside. But I just stood there shivering as cold shards of wind blasted us, a plastic smile frozen on my face.
"Well, then," I said quickly, before she had a chance to fill the void, "I'd better get these beauties inside!" I leaned down and took them, gave her a quick peck on the cheek. "So nice of you to think of us. Jack and I will drop by soon, I promise."
"Oh, I would love that! And Erin's so happy you're back. She's been filling me in on everything." I flashed another smile and turned around, then walked inside and shut the door.
I plopped back down again in front of my laptop and finished logging on. My eye immediately caught the three new notifications glaring at me in red, which always give me a frisson of excitement. Sadly, not much else going on these days.
Janis White reacted to a photo you shared.
A heart, in "reaction" to a pic I posted of Jack, his hair wild with sweat, yesterday on a swing set.
Angela Cline commented on your post.
Same post. Love this little man.
But it was the third notification that drew heat to my face, made my heart flutter.
You are now friends with Margot Banks.
Margot Banks. She of the famed Banks family in East Texas. Oil money dripping out of their ears and pouring back for generations.
Last week, I finally caved and sent Margot a friend request after a few months of trolling her pics on Facebook. Her profile is set to private, but I would click through photos of her-pics she was tagged in by our mutual friends, like Erin, for instance-and find myself entranced.
I took a sip of my latte and felt the warmth spread through my chest; now that we were friends, I began scrolling through her photos.
There was Margot at an upscale restaurant, raven hair perfectly coiffed. Cut just above the chin line. She's leaning back in the booth, slender legs toned and scissor-crossed. Her candy-apple-red lips are slightly parted, as if in invitation. Heavy-lidded, smoky-gray eyes with a hint of smirk in them. Bedroom eyes, as Graham would call them.
I clicked on another photo: Margot draped in a glittering red evening gown. At a charity ball or some such event for the Junior League, no doubt. She's backlit. Her chiseled shoulders are bare, her olive skin flawless. She wears the same smirk, as if mocking the camera.
Next, I hopped over to her updates, scrolled through her posts. Landed on one dated from last Tuesday, from the local wine bar. The post read: Tuesday happy hour at Chino's-SO fun. I scrolled farther back and saw a similar post from the previous Tuesday, took out my phone, and texted Erin:
Up for happy hour tonight?
A second hadn't even passed and she was already typing back. Erin, always there, solid and dependable and as eager as a teenage boy on prom night.
Her response was followed by a champagne glasses emoji. I typed back the thumbs-up, which usually wraps up her text-a-thons.
I swiped back to MargotÕs photos, clicked on yet another one. Margot on her front lawn wearing a black wrap dress, her arms draped around two children who look as if they've stepped from a Renoir painting.
My eyes were drawn to her plunging neckline with a pinch of cleavage. A single diamond dangled from a chain and rested just above her breasts. I zoomed in and, to my absolute horror, Facebook asked me, Who do you want to tag?
I panicked and closed out. I felt like I'd been caught watching a dirty movie. The latte screamed in my bladder, and I stood and went to the bathroom and checked the time. I realized an hour had passed.
I'm well into my second glass by the time Erin arrives, dressed in frumpy browns and blacks, harried and disheveled, a bead of sweat licking her hairline.
"Sorry I'm late!" She sinks into a chair and swings her mom-bag down next to her. She's wearing clunky sandals, and suddenly I'm a bit embarrassed to be seen with her. But it's better than being alone. Plus, I like Erin. Truly. She's reliably cheery with a toothy grin and childlike energy. And I hate myself for thinking like this, for judging Erin this way, but a decade spent in the lifestyle magazine business has me hardwired toward shallowness. It's something I'm keen to shake off, to leave behind me.
The waiter saunters over to take our order.
"Split a bottle?" I ask.
"Yes, ma'am!" Erin beams.
We order chardonnay, the brand they have on special for happy hour, and Erin launches into a ragged monologue.
"I SO needed this! Mattie was a complete tyrant today," she says, tucking a lock of cowlicked hair behind an ear. Mattie-short for Matilda-is Erin's five-year-old daughter, and she's a spitfire, an adorable brunette with ringlets of hair framing her face. I love her.
"She started in on me this morning with wanting to wear a miniskirt-and you know that's not gonna happen-and she was so keyed up by the time we hit school that I wanted to stab my eye out with a butter knife!"
Erin serves on the board for a bunch of civic stuff-the children's museum, the local library-and her husband, a teddy-bear type, works from home building websites. Erin's able to stay at home, too, doing volunteer work and raising Mattie.
The waiter stops by and refreshes our glasses. Erin is becoming more animated with each glass of wine and drones on and on. I nod in the correct places, but find myself unable to listen. I keep eyeing the street for Margot, slyly checking my Facebook feed on my phone.
Before I know it, though, more than an hour has passed and the night sky is turning to ink all around us. There's no sign of Margot and I'm more disappointed than I should be.
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
I'm in the car with Graham. He's driving us over to the party at the Banks estate. His hand rests on my bare knee; he looks handsome in his simple gray sports jacket and crisp white tee.
After tearing through my closet this morning, discarding old dresses and skirts to a heap on the floor, I finally settled on a spring-green eyelet dress with cream-colored espadrilles. I looked fairly casual, so I threw on a pair of ruby drop earrings with a matching necklace for safe measure.
I feel exhilarated, like the old days, like we're on our way to a gallery opening in Chicago. I place my hand on top of Graham's and squeeze it.
The Banks estate is in Castle Hill, the oldest section of Mapleton. The streets are dotted with 1920s mansions, all left over from the oil boom. And Margot's in-laws' is by and far the largest, and as we slip through the black iron gates, a long, winding drive leads us down a grassy slope toward a massive, two-story colonial that sprawls like a plantation home.
Ancient, twisted oaks shelter the plush green lawn, and white lights twinkle from their branches. Our wheels chomp the gravel lane until we arrive at the paved, circular drive that rims the entrance to the house.
A tall valet in a white tux opens my door.
"Evenin', ma'am," he says and guides me from the car to the lawn. The sultry night air bathes my skin like a balm after the chill of the car's AC, and I can almost feel my hair frizz. Graham circles the car, takes my arm, and leads me around to the back of the house, where the party is already well under way.
The backyard is even vaster, and like the front, it's studded with giant oaks, glittering with lights. A hundred or so people are gathered in gossipy clumps-mostly older ladies in all their finery-and for a second, I feel a bit self-conscious in my modest dress. But then I spot Erin holding court at the open bar. She's wearing a white skirt with a plain, blue knit top and chatting with her husband, Ryan, and a group of guys who are all in khakis and short-sleeved button-ups.
A string quartet is parked on the back steps of the mansion, the cellist sawing away sonorously. Dozens of waitstaff in white tuxes hover over the crowd, brandishing silver trays of hors d'oeuvres. One of the tux-clad men, tall and broad-chested, is parked under a magnolia tree in the corner of the patio and shucking oysters.
"You guys made it!" Erin says, her voice already slurry with drink. She's clutching a pewter mug stuffed with mint leaves and ice. She shakes it in front of her like a Yahtzee cup. "Gimme a refill, Ryan. And a few for our friends!"
Ryan waves at us and then turns toward the bar.
"Total freak show. Am I right?" Erin cackles, swinging her mug at the garishly made-up older women. Her breath smells of bourbon and mint. "But the food. Damn good!"
I decide I like her tipsy; she's funnier this way.
"Care for a lobster roll?" a waiter asks, and I pluck two from the tray and pop one in my mouth, passing the other one to Graham. We skipped a proper dinner, splitting, instead, a hastily made sandwich in the breakfast nook while Jack wove between our legs as we chatted with the babysitter, giving her instructions. My stomach rumbles but then Ryan passes me a mint julep, drops of condensation beading the mug.
I sip. The sugary, minty flavor coats my mouth and is so sweet the bourbon doesn't even burn as it slides down my throat. I drain the mug greedily and order another.
"Graham, if you see the crab cake tray floating by, swipe 'em all!" Erin says. "They're insane."
Graham raises his mug to Erin's, clinks it with a toast. "To insane crab cakes!"
"Hear, hear!" Ryan chimes in, and we all toast together.
As if on command, a waiter appears brandishing a wide tray covered in said crab cakes. Graham lifts several, passing them around. I stuff one in my mouth (they are insane) and nab another from Graham, hoping the food will sop up some of the alcohol that's already fuming through my bloodstream.
The sun is fading behind the treetops, smearing the sky with peach and orange streaks, and as the night darkens, the party becomes both more intimate and animated.
Reading Group Guide
The Hunting Wives by May Cobb
1. When the novel opens, Sophie has ditched a glossy but harried big-city life for the quiet of rural Texas. Did you relate to her yearning for a slower pace of life and her leaving Chicago for Mapleton? Have you ever made a big change like that? Did it work out the way you’d hoped?
2. Sophie and Graham have a seemingly perfect marriage. Were Sophie’s boredom and restlessness with her life and her ensuing obsession with Margot relatable to you in any way?
3. Nearly all the members of the Hunting Wives—Margot, Jill, and Callie—lead lives of enormous privilege and gilded wealth, and each exhibit unsavory, selfish behavior. Did you find yourself rooting for any of these characters at any point? Which one did you despise the most, and why?
4. What role did the East Texas setting play in this novel for you?
5. Do you see Margot as a victim or a perpetrator? Or both?
6. Was there any point in Sophie’s descent into obsession—especially when she made questionable decisions—where your feelings about her changed? Did she become harder to relate to, or did you understand in any way what she was going through?
7. Social media plays a big role in the story. How does it compare to your own life and your own use of sites such as Facebook and Instagram, especially when it comes to rubbernecking the profiles of other people, like Sophie does with Margot’s?
8. One of the themes of the novel is the notion that you cannot outrun your darker urges, that no matter where you live, you can’t escape who you are. What did you make of Sophie’s rootless childhood as a factor that went into shaping who she is as a wife and as a mother?
9. Sophie’s friend Erin is a constant, grounding presence in Sophie’s life. What did you think of Sophie’s treatment of her? And how did you feel about Erin’s ultimate rebuke of Sophie?
10. In the end, Sophie still has lingering questions about her feelings for Margot. How did you feel about this? How has Sophie changed from the outset of the novel to the ending? What do you think her future will hold?