My Husband’s Sweethearts
$22.00, hardback, 288 pages
A plot synopsis reads like a Lifetime-movie-gone wrong: Lucy’s discovery of her husband’s infidelities is followed quickly by discovering he’s dying. Accepting a sarcastic challenge from her husband, Artie, Lucy calls the women in his little black book.
All that’s needed at the end is “hilarity ensues” to place My Husband’s Sweethearts into the growing genre of books to be read in Laundromats or on airplanes and then left behind, completely forgotten.
Except that doesn’t happen here. What saves the book is Bridget Asher’s gift for characterization. All of the women who make an appearance at the deathbed have personalities and voices of their own. Some of the sweethearts become strong, supporting characters, while others simply make cameo appearances. Regardless of the number of pages they appear on, each makes a strong entrance and impression. Asher tells the story in a first-person narrative. Although it is Lucy who describes the physical and psychic appearance of the sweethearts, she does so in an objective voice.
Two of the sweethearts are integral to the story. Elspa, a free-spirit, former drug addict, says Artie saved her life. She becomes a temporary resident in the house, and Lucy and the others end up on a road trip to reclaim Elspa’s daughter. Along for the ride is Eleanor, one of the first to respond to Lucy’s after-midnight, drunken summons to Artie’s side. Eleanor is the one who arranges a schedule for the visitors and seems to hold a grudge against Artie more than the others. The character fits into the book well, balancing Lucy and Elspa.
The one jangled note is the culmination of John Bessom’s story. Bessom is Artie’s estranged adult son, and, while the discovery and growth of their relationship is well told, how it wraps up raises more questions than it should. Perhaps a more subtle end hinting at the chapters following “the end” would have been better.
The characters are the strongest part of the novel, but Asher’s deft use of emotion should not be overlooked. The book moves smoothly through slow and sudden changes from humor to sorrow with stops along the way for anger and joy.
My Husband’s Sweethearts may not be great literature, but it is entertaining read that deserves to be remembered.