cover image Mother Daughter Widow Wife

Mother Daughter Widow Wife

Robin Wasserman. Scribner, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-1-982139-49-0

Wasserman’s shrewd, beguiling follow-up to Girls on Fire unpacks the ways three women’s lives are affected by a sexual predator. In 1999, a woman arrives in Philadelphia on a bus with no memory of who she is or where she came from. Dubbed Wendy Doe, she is placed into care at the Meadowlark Institute for Memory Research. Lizzie Epstein, the research fellow tasked with observing her by Dr. Benjamin Strauss, a semi-famous scientist and philanderer, spends her days conversing with Wendy and mulling over the implicit bargain of her affair with Benjamin, who promises to advance her career. The story flashes forward two decades, when Lizzie, mourning the death of Benjamin, who she’d married after he left his first wife, opens her door to Alice, the 18-year-old daughter of Wendy. Alice is looking for information about her mother, who has disappeared. Wasserman’s prose starkly conveys the power sought and held by Benjamin (“Strauss believed in knowledge by colonization, understanding a subject by spreading across every inch of its territory until it was wholly possessed”), and she methodically moves the story toward a disturbing revelation about the connections among Wendy, Lizzie, and Alice. This examination of how one man in power can abuse the women closest to him delivers the goods. Agent: Meredith Kaffel Simonoff, DeFiore and Company. (July)