The Third Wife: A Novel

The Third Wife: A Novel

by Lisa Jewell


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Fans of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes will be captivated by this riveting family drama with a dark mystery at its core, from the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone.

In the early hours of a summer morning, a young woman steps into the path of an oncoming bus. A tragic accident? Or suicide?

At the center of this puzzle is Adrian Wolfe, a successful architect and grief-stricken widower, who, a year after his third wife’s death, begins to investigate the cause. As Adrian looks back on their brief but seemingly happy marriage, disturbing secrets begin to surface. The divorces from his two previous wives had been amicable, or so it seemed; his children, all five of them, were resilient as ever, or so he thought. But something, or someone, must have pushed Maya over the edge.

“Jewell’s last few novels have been a revelation—emotionally sophisticated and complex,” says Kirkus Reviews. “Like Liane Moriarty, she manages the perfect blend of women’s fiction and nail-biting suspense,” hails Booklist. The Third Wife is “an emotionally intelligent, brilliantly plotted, and beautifully written examination of a very modern family that will keep you gripped to the end” (London Daily Mail).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476792194
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 02/23/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 31,941
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Lisa Jewell is the internationally bestselling author of eighteen novels, including the New York Times bestseller Then She Was Gone, as well as I Found You, The Girls in the Garden, and The House We Grew Up In. In total, her novels have sold more than two million copies across the English-speaking world and her work has also been translated into sixteen languages so far. Lisa lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. Connect with her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK and on Facebook @LisaJewellOfficial.

Read an Excerpt

The Third Wife

  • 1

    April 2011

    They might have been fireworks, the splashes, bursts, storms of color that exploded in front of her eyes. They might have been the northern lights, her own personal aurora borealis. But they weren’t, they were just neon lights and streetlights rendered blurred and prismatic by vodka. Maya blinked, trying to dislodge the colors from her field of vision. But they were stuck, as though someone had been scribbling on her eyeballs. She closed her eyes for a moment, but without vision, her balance went and she could feel herself begin to sway. She grabbed something. She did not realize until the sharp bark and shrug that accompanied her action that it was a human being.

    “Shit,” Maya said, “I’m really sorry.”

    The person tutted and backed away from her. “Don’t worry about it.”

    Maya took exaggerated offense to the person’s lack of kindness.

    “Jesus,” she said to the outline of the person, whose gender she had failed to ascertain. “What’s your problem?”

    “Er,” said the person, looking Maya up and down, “I think you’ll find you’re the one with the problem.” Then the person, a woman, yes, in red shoes, tutted again and walked away, her heels issuing a mocking clack-clack against the pavement as she went.

    Maya watched her blurred figure recede. She found a lamppost and leaned against it, looking into the oncoming traffic. The headlights turned into more fireworks. Or one of those toys she’d had as a child: tube, full of colored beads, you shook it, looked through the hole, lovely patterns—what was it called? She couldn’t remember. Whatever. She didn’t know anymore. She didn’t know what time it was. She didn’t know where she was. Adrian had called. She’d spoken to him. Tried to sound sober. He’d asked her if she needed him to come and get her. She couldn’t remember what she’d said. Or how long ago that had been. Lovely Adrian. So lovely. She couldn’t go home. Go home and do what she needed to do. He was too nice. She remembered the pub. She’d talked to that woman. Promised her she was going home. That was hours ago. Where had she been since then? Walking. Sitting somewhere, on a bench, with a bottle of vodka, talking to strangers. Hahaha! That bit had been fun. Those people had been fun. They’d said she could come back with them, to their flat, have a party. She’d been tempted, but she was glad now, glad she’d said no.

    She closed her eyes, gripped the lamppost tighter as she felt her balance slip away from her. She smiled to herself. This was nice. This was nice. All this color and darkness and noise and all these fascinating people. She should do this more often, she really should. Get out of it. Live a little. Go a bit nuts. A group of women were walking towards her. She stared at them greedily. She could see each woman in triplicate. They were all so young, so pretty. She closed her eyes again as they passed by, her senses unable to contain their images any longer. Once they’d passed she opened her eyes.

    She saw a bus bearing down, bouncy and keen. She squinted into the white light on the front, looking for a number. It slowed as it neared her and she turned and saw that there was a bus stop to her left, with people standing at it.

    Dear Bitch. Why can’t you just disappear?

    The words passed through her mind, clear and concise in their meaning, like a sober person leading her home. And then those other words, the words from earlier.

    I hate her too.

    She took a step forward.

  • Reading Group Guide

    This reading group guide for The Third Wife includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


    From all appearances, Adrian Wolfe is a successful, happy man. But when the tragic death of his third wife shatters his world, he begins to unearth disturbing clues that things were not necessarily as they seemed. The mystery surrounding his wife’s death exposes some hidden unsettledness within the family system, and casts suspicion on the true cause of her demise. The Third Wife is a riveting story filled with psychological nuance of how the Wolfe family unravels the truth of their story.

    Topics & Questions for Discussion

    1. Describe your first impression of Adrian. How would you describe him?

    2. One of the themes of this book is how the family system copes with the various changes and disruptions brought about by each of Adrian’s marriages and remarriages. In what ways do Adrian’s children adjust and react to each of his new wives?

    3. Which of Adrian’s children do you relate to the most? Describe.

    4. On page 90, the author describes Luke: “He’d always felt there was somewhere else he was supposed to be, other friends he should be hanging out with, some amazing life he was supposed to be living. And now that he was living a different life, the one he’d left behind glittered in his wake like dropped diamonds.” What do you think are some of the causes of Luke’s restlessness?

    5. How would you describe Cat’s relationship with Adrian? What was she hungry for in her relationship with him?

    6. Compare and contrast Susie and Caroline. What do you think drew Adrian to each of them?

    7. In what ways is the “Board of Harmony” ironic?

    8. What impact do you think the e-mails had on Maya and her relationship with Adrian?

    9. In what ways are Maya and Luke similar? What do you think sparked their connection with each other?

    10. What role does Jane/Abby play in the story?

    11. On page 276, Pearl describes Adrian as “addicted to being in love.” What kept him in the cycle of addiction? What was the first step he took toward sobriety?

    12. What do you think were some of Adrian’s greatest fears? How did they play out in each of his marriages?

    13. Do you think Maya’s death was accidental or suicide?

    14. What would you describe as the major themes of this story? Would you say it is a redemptive story? Why or why not?

    15. Do you think Adrian and Caroline end up together? How would you write the post-epilogue narrative?

    16. What do you think prompted the author to write this story?

    Enhance Your Book Club

    1. Read The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce. Which findings of this 25-year study are reflected in the lives of each of the characters in The Third Wife?

    2. Watch The Family Stone and discuss the various roles each character plays in the family system.

    3. Write a letter (that you may or may not actually send) to someone in your life (family or friend) who has hurt you but never acknowledged the impact of his or her actions. Discuss what it was like to do this during your next book club.

    4. Create categories on a continuum to describe the degrees of “addicted to love.” At your next book club, discuss what keeps people in the cycle of addiction and what are some possible first steps toward sobriety.

    Customer Reviews

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    The Third Wife 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    A book that weaves you inside the characters and keeps you guessing about their true nature. A very interesting read that doesn't let go.
    BookBridget More than 1 year ago
    I really enjoyed this book! I read The Third Wife in one day! I spent my Memorial Day Holiday on my deck enjoying this book and the sunny day. I found the book to be on par with Close My Eyes, The Daylight Marriage and The Good Girl. I’m not sure if the author’s intention was for this book to be a psychological thriller but that was my take-away. And since psychological thrillers are my favorite genre (and everyone else’s) right now, this book was a win for me. The setting is London, also a popular location for thriller’s right now. The reason why I’m speculating that the book was not intended to be a psychological thriller is how the book ended. Without giving away any spoilers the ending was not what you would expect in a mystery/thriller. It was more “feel-good’ than I expected. Maya is Adrian’s third wife who is ran over by a bus one night after a night of out-of-character binge drinking/clubbing. Initially it looks like just an unfortunate accident but after a few months clues start popping up that indicate that Maya’s death may have been more sinister. The majority of the book is narrated through Adrian. Adrian is a likeable guy who has remained friendly with his x-wives and kids throughout his marriages, divorces and remarriages. Everyone gets along so great that they all go on vacation together, attend family events together and hang out at each other’s flats. Adrian’s philosophy is that a replacement wife or a new baby is “another person to love”. And at first it does appear that Adrian’s family is very mature and has taken the high road and that Adrian is a genuinely nice guy. As the book goes on we realize that the players in this book are not as accepting or unscarred as they appear. And although Adrian stays likable through the story it does come out that basically he is a selfish clod who moves from relationship to relationship when he’s just not felling it anymore. I thought that the story was well put together; my only negative was it was obvious that Adrian’s story was written by a woman (which it was). Adrian noticed entirely too much about the woman’s outfits to be a plausible male. When Adrian was attracted to a very beautiful blonde woman, one of the details that he noticed were her ankle boots. I don’t know about most man but my husband does not know what ankle boots are. However, since the book’s intended audience was women maybe the fashion details were purposeful. I loved the book! Thank you NetGalley and Atria Books for providing me with an ARC of this book!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    GratefulGrandma More than 1 year ago
    This book is hard to categorize. Is it chick-lit, family drama, suspense, maybe a bit of a psychological thriller? Whatever genre you fit it into, it will still be a great story. Adrian is a serial husband. He has two families and this is his third wife. Are they going to have a child? Do they want to add to his ever growing family? But then, Maya, his third wife dies. Was it a suicide? Was it an accident? Did someone push her in front of the bus? When Adrian's son finds a folder of hate emails on her computer, the waters get muddied and Adrien sets out on a quest to get to the bottom of the mystery. At first I thought that this family was too good to be true. Adrian and his two previous wives, Susie and Caroline, their five children, and his third wife Maya, all seem to have a cohesive relationship that is hard to believe. Three women, all having been married to the same man getting along so well? I can understand the siblings getting along, but do they really? Who is sending the hate emails to Maya? It has to be someone close to the family because they know too much. And then who is Jane? This stranger that comes to check out Maya's cat to see if she wants to bring it home. She appears to be stalking the family, but why? As we learn more about Adrian, his children and ex-wives, we learn that all is not as it seems. The children are troubled, the wives a bit jealous and Maya was not as happy as it seemed. I enjoyed this story, never knowing exactly where it was going. As I said earlier, is it a mystery? How does Maya really die and can Adrian learn to live without another wife and family? This was not my first Lisa Jewell book and it won't be my last. I enjoyed the journey this story took and I recommend it to lovers of twisty stories.
    GrammyReading More than 1 year ago
    the man had three wives..all stil alive...and five children total...something had to give...something had to move him enough to see how he had hurt his family...and the more the merrier isn't always so the third wife reveals how our assumptions can lead us into danger zones...where the actions of others reveal the truth of our hearts...and pain can be masked as commitment...but the truth does surface...if you dig long and hard enough...good story...
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    AnnieMcDonnell More than 1 year ago
    I was quite astounded by this story, imagining Adrian’s large extended families seeming to function so normally with one another. You would think that having two ex-wives with five children between them, would somehow make the new wife, Maya feel a bit uncomfortable. But, No! She would babysit for his children at his ex-wife’s home. If you are getting divorced and have children, this is a great way to live. It was really a beautiful thing. But, that is where my loyalties remained. I felt a bit all over the place not being able to attach to any character in particular. The story opens up with Adrian’s present wife, Maya being hit by a bus and dying upon impact. There were so many questions surrounding the accident; yet, it remained being considered an accident….even when Adrian began looking in to the truth behind it. He was concerned it may have been more than an accident…it could have been a suicide or even a homicide. By the end of the book, you are hoping for an answer. It was stated in the book that Adrian was “in love with love” and that he “liked being married”. So, I was rather bothered by the lack of emotion regarding what Adrian put his ex-wives through. He did not understand what it is to be in love or married…I mean, you have to make it through even the rough spots, and not keep moving on to the next woman when you feel you have “lost that loving feeling”. (Not to be cheesy, my apologies) But, he would always run. I felt that there was a plot here that could have been more established. Well, suffice it to say, I fell head over heels for the Bird family in Lisa Jewell’s book “The House We Grew Up In” and really expected to have the same connection…but, that was not the case. I still want to read all of her other books, as her writing is still superb.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago