The Wife Between Us is a psychological thriller filled with masterful twists and turns.
What makes it special though is just how MANY of those twists there really are. From practically one chapter to the next you are left going “wait, WHAT?!”.
You then have to reevaluate everything you thought you knew and find a new center.
Until it shifts again.
An Instant Best-Seller Well Worth Your Time
It’s easy to see how this domestic thriller became an instant New York Times bestseller.
The sheer skill involved in keeping the reader guessing so often had me really applauding the novel’s writers.
Whatever the reason, what felt at the beginning like a very formulaic scorned woman/ jealous ex-wife thriller morphed into something much more complex and captivating.
The book broadly exposes the secret complexities of what looks like an enviable marriage. Appearances hide dangerous truths that keep you guessing and really invest you in these fascinating characters.
An Ever-Evolving Plot
As far as the actual plot goes, it is straightforward enough to follow… At least, to follow what you think the plot is at any given moment.
The story is one of a jilted wife jealous of a younger woman.
Until it’s actually about a stalker harassing a long-suffering victim. Until no, it’s really about alcohol abuse. Now it’s about a master manipulator who will do anything in the name of love, and on, and on.
You are left spun around so many times you do get plot vertigo… but it’s a fun ride.
It’s the kind of book that will have you trying to anticipate the next twist ahead of time.
As much as I tried though, I always got it slightly wrong. And instead of being maddening, it just pulled me deeper and deeper into the twisty plot all the way to the very last page.
The book is very much in the vein of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl or any number of books by Karin Slaughter.
So if you are a fan of either of those authors, you are likely going to love The Wife Between Us.
The Wife Between Us Is Best Read Quickly
I, unfortunately, did read the book in a more spread-out manner, and I think it would have held up even better if I had had the time to power through it and knock it out in a day or two.
It might have been I kept dropping off because of the book itself (I have definitely experienced those books before). But in this case, I think it was external distractions.
So, a vacation or a weekend you wanted to spend reading would be ideal times to give The Wife Between Us your full attention.
It’s worth that respect, and it is a top pick in the “best domestic suspense novel” category. It may be the most clever thriller I’ve read in a long time.
It definitely had me looking up what else Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen have written together.
So far, there are 3 others books they have published together, and I’m sure at least one of them will make it up here as a review soon.
The Wife Between Us Plot Summary
Warning: many spoilers ahead!
Our main character is Vanessa Thompson, the angry first wife of Richard, a handsome 36-year-old hedge fund manager.
A mess since her divorce, she lives with her Aunt Charlotte and is on thin ice at her retail job at Saks.
While working she is devastated to learn from a former friend that Richard is planning to marry the woman he had an affair with and left her for: a carbon copy of her former self.
The story alternates from the perspective of Nellie, a beautiful young woman and preschool teacher.
Nellie is thrilled to be marrying Richard, ignoring the misgivings of her best friend. She is worried about Richard’s ex though and is fearful of some past trauma she hints at.
Vanessa remembers a lot of the aspects of their marriage that made it a total disaster, like hiding how much she drank and being unable to give him the children he wanted. Nellie can’t wait to have Richard’s children, even as she is nervous about how much she is giving up to be the wife Richard wants.
With the wedding date fast approaching, Vanessa knows she needs to stop this new marriage from happening and has to talk to his fiancee.
A Single Narrator
First plot twist: the unreliable narrator is revealed. Despite thinking Nellie was the girl Richard had an affair with, Vanessa and Nellie are actually the same person (Nellie is Richards’s nickname for her).
The woman Richard is actually going to marry is Emma, his former secretary, and new fiancé.
The second part of the story goes into how Richard treated Nellie/Vanessa since they got married, with him manipulating her past fears and essentially gas-lighting her to keep her isolated from everyone but him.
Vanessa’s flashbacks detail her troubled past and why she fled Florida after college. She was partially responsible for the death of a sorority pledge.
Instead of watching her during initiation, she left to confront the professor she was having an affair and tell him she was pregnant. That’s when she learned not only was he just using her, he was also married with a kid already.
She left school fearing retribution from the brother for his sister’s death. She has lived in fear ever since, thinking one day he would find her and get payback.
We slowly realize that Richard was the one using Vanessa’s fear to intentionally control her.
Vanessa confronts his innocent fiancee Emma to warn her what he is really like, but Emma ignores her.
The Twists Keep Coming
Another plot twist: Vanessa keeps trying to make it right because the truth is she is the one who orchestrated the whole affair.
After realizing he tracks her through her phone, stopped her from seeing a therapist, and somehow mysteriously “got rid of” her dog, she knows she needs to end things.
Knowing Richard would never let her leave unless it was his idea, she pushed him in the direction of Emma so he would leave HER instead. She didn’t realize how guilty she would feel sacrificing an innocent woman to Richard though and tells Emma the truth to try and keep her from marrying Richard.
Emma doesn’t believe her, so Vanessa orchestrates a meeting where she pushes Richard into the rage she knows he is capable of outside of Emma’s apartment.
It almost ends badly when he is strangling her and almost kills her. She is saved by Emma, who finally believes and leaves Richard. Richard is moved into a psych ward by his sister Maureen, who is strangely happy to be the only woman in Richards’s life again.
In the final chapter, Vanessa lets her old therapist know she did ultimately leave Richard. It turns out, her therapist was actually Richard’s first serious relationship who also suffered abuse from him.
One Final Reveal
All that is left is the epilogue, and there is a final big reveal.
Emma is actually the daughter of the man Nellie had an affair with at college. She thought she was getting revenge against Nellie/Vanessa by stealing her husband away from her, only to realize later SHE was the one who was manipulated.
She didn’t realize Vanessa never knew about her father’s family or the home she was wrecking. She tells Vanessa this last piece of truth, and the women go off to live the rest of their lives in a tenuous peace.
Looking to make reading a more regular thing? Why not start a book club! Check out my article on How to Form a Book Club for tips on creating the ideal club for your lifestyle.
Did you read The Wife Between Us? What did you think? Leave me a comment below about what you did or didn’t like about the book!