WIFE ON THE RUN
Author: Fiona Higgins
Allen & Unwin RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
How many of us can truly say that social media has little to no impact on our lives? Used well, it can be a positive, but far too many people have fallen foul of the more negative aspects. The impact ranges from annoying to embarrassing to devastating, but either way, it’s hard to escape these days. Fiona Higgins’ second novel, Wife on the Run, focuses on this issue, notably on the impact of social media on families.
The novel’s “what if” question is one many will relate to. Two consecutive events place mother-of-two Paula in the unenviable situation of making some big choices about her life and her marriage. Firstly, her daughter is publicly shamed on Facebook. Secondly, she discovers her husband’s secret online life. If you were Paula, what would you do? As a mother, Paula wants only to protect her daughter (and her family) from shame; as a wife, she can no longer ignore the state of her marriage. It’s all too much and Paula decides the best thing to do is run, reasoning that some time away from day-to-day life and technology will help her, and the family, realise what is really important in life. What follows is a road trip around Australia with the kids, but sans husband, Facebook, Instagram and restricted phone and Internet access. How will they cope? Will this spontaneous “experiment” work? Or is it just delaying the inevitable?
The urge to run is a deeply ingrained response for many of us when faced with difficulty; some overrule that urge, others go with it. Those who run often come to realise that “wherever you go, there you are”, and Paula is no exception. She still has to deal with things … like a marriage gone stale, dying because of unforgiven hurts. She thinks the road trip is about protecting the kids and rebuilding her relationship with them, and it is, but more so, it’s about giving herself breathing space and gathering strength to make the big decisions. A major theme of the novel is empowerment, and this is well expressed through Paula’s story. Other themes include love, loss, relationship breakdowns, ageing and sex (in terms of sexuality, sex for older people, and the way it evolves within a long-term relationship).
Part cautionary tale, part “finding yourself” yarn, Wife on the Run is full of flawed, believable characters and tackles modern-day issues with candour and compassion. I was quickly drawn in to the story, probably because I have teenagers so the social media storyline was relevant to my own life. And, like Paula, I’m also frustrated by the reliance much of society has on technology. Stand-out characters for me were “Farken Frank” and Sid (I loved his practical life lessons), with both adding humour at just the right time. A worthy follow up to Higgins’ debut novel The Mother’s Group.
Available from good bookstores and Allen & Unwin. My copy was courtesy of Allen & Unwin.
Bookish treat: I was given some peanut butter Lindt balls while I was reading this book. They didn’t last long.