t’s time for Literary Wives, a blogging club that looks at the depiction of wives in fiction!
Please make sure to check out the posts by the other wives and join in the discussion if you’ve read Wait For Me, Jack by Addison Jones! There are definitely spoilers ahead.
Wait For Me, Jack is the story of Jack and Milly’s ‘greatest generation’ marriage. The book starts with the day they meet, it’s Jack’s first day of work and he’s kind of already bored and tries to flirt with Milly (although back then she’s still Billie) and she brushes him off but then at the end of the day she sees him down the street and yells after him to wait up and the rest is history. Or rather, the rest is what makes up the book, told backwards. The next section sees Jack and Milly as seniors in their last days; Jack actually dies in his sleep and Milly is left with his body for days before she tells their children that their father is dead, really casually.
Each section is a different date and year in their lives, never any of the important days that they allude to throughout the book (when their nephews were dropped into their lives to stay, when their baby died etc), just regular days that altogether make up a life. You see their relationship unfurl, from what it is in the end when they really can’t stand each other, to the middle when both of them are kind of at loose ends, to the very beginning when they are trying to build a life together.
I quite liked the structure of this book – I liked being able to see the regression of the marriage, knowing how it all ended up before seeing how it got that way. It was an interesting way for the characters to develop too, or rather, regress.
Right away I was struck by Jones’ dedication:
To anyone who wonders if they married the wrong person.
It really sets up the novel as both Jack and Milly wonder numerous times what their lives would have been like had they ended up with different people. In Jack’s case he acts on that fantasy with a number of different women, further complicating their lives by bringing an additional child into the mix.
I won’t say that I particularly liked any character in this novel. Oh I’m not the kind of reader that has to like characters in books but when you don’t, it does make it harder to root for them. Jack leans right into being a despicable person with the cheating and the way he looks down on his wife as she ages less gracefully than he perhaps would have preferred. And for her part, I think Milly makes herself into a bit of a martyr, never really standing up for what she wants out of the relationship.
What does the book say about being a wife?
This book felt really Jack-centric to me but we did get a sense of what it was like for Milly at points throughout the novel.
For Milly it seems like a large part of being a wife is putting up with Jack’s shi*t and making him feel like the smarter, more everything partner. She’s not stupid, she knows what he is, what he’s done, where he’s been on some of the important days of their lives. But she’s also a woman of a certain time, a ‘greatest generation’ wife, the people who just got on with it and didn’t complain. What happens to her life, her children, Milly, if she leaves Jack, the breadwinner?
She imagined leaving but couldn’t get past the practical difficulties. Where to go, and with what money?[…] If she left this house, somehow, without money, would Billy come with her? Would the older children still respect her, want to visit her? Would she end up like her sister, Louise? Mentally unstable, impoverished, vulnerable? No real home, a transient? Or like her mother – coping with singleness by being manly, tough, aggressively competent?
It seems like, for Milly, the most important part about being a wife is the home she creates. For most of the novel, Milly is inside their home. Later in life it is because she has become crippled, unwilling and unable to leave their home but earlier on home has always been her focus. Without Jack, without her marriage, that home is no longer possible. Their marriage ends in her home with Jack’s passing and we don’t know what becomes of Milly then. Do her children take her in? Does she move to an assisted living facility? Does she stay in the home alone? It is clear at the end of her life that Milly is in no condition to take care of herself. Whatever his failings, and there are many, in the end Jack does take gruding care of her, even while being annoyed that she can’t remember anything, that she can’t walk, that she smells.
Wait For Me, Jack seems to posit that marriage is just an institution designed to stick you with the one person who will annoy you, plague you and break your heart a million times over. A very uplifting read! 🙂
Be sure to visit the other blogs and get in on the discussion! Join us in June when we read A Separation by Katie Kitamura.