Mother Daughter Widow Wife

Scribner. Jun. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9781982139490. $27. F
The memory clinic has named her Wendy Doe, this total amnesiac with no known past. The clinic’s “guest,” she is being studied by eminent psychologist Benjamin Strauss and protégée Lizzie (soon, not surprisingly, to be his mistress). Some months later, Wendy’s memory returns; she is Karen Clark, with a home and a husband. Some years later, Lizzie (now Elizabeth and Strauss’s widow and a best-selling author) finds Alice at her front door. Alice’s mother, Karen Clark, has disappeared, and Alice is seeking insight because Lizzie was close to Karen when she was still Wendy. Wendy, Lizzie, and Elizabeth narrate in turns. If it sounds a little soap opera–ish, it is, something the book lightly acknowledges, but the framework is sound. However, the narrative is interrupted frequently by side trips into scientific/psychological disquisition, Lizzie’s ruminations on “mistress-hood,” narrative theory, even soap-opera structure, and more. In the end, one unforeseen mystery is solved—Alice’s paternity—but a larger one is not: What has become of Wendy/Karen this time?
VERDICT For readers of stylish psychological thrillers who can be forgiven for skimming. [See Prepub Alert, 12/9/19.]
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