Nobody wants to spend an evening in Buffalo alone. Well, nobody should. Lark doesn’t. She’s a board game designer, in town from her home in Los Angeles to pitch an idea. A guy named Trip at the hotel bar strikes up a conversation and soon she’s ordering another vodka and the next morning she can’t remember if they ended up in her room or his.
Jessica is the author of a life plan she’s been following since fifth grade. The grind of medical school and the endless hours of study have left one box unchecked—husband. And then along comes Jonathan Wright III, “offering a way to cross the last item off her list in an entirely different way than she’d imagined.” He recruited her for his “hush-hush” start-up, “a private equity moon shot developing an easy-to-swallow diagnostic tool to detect childhood cancers.” When we meet Jessica, she’s in Chicago for the first time to begin work and, she is sure, marry Jonathan.
Holly is the Barrington Hills Horse Lady and mother of three—Ava, Logan, and Paige. She is in the middle of a good old-fashioned neighborhood feud over the planned extension of a bridle path. She’s been married to Jack for 19 years. Holly wishes Jack spent less time on the road. She’s encouraged by the fact that he’s bringing some of his out-sourced work in house, meaning fewer trips to Phoenix. But he announces there’s a possible new partnership with a lab on the West Coast but Jack tells Holly he’s not sure how it’s going to work out. “We’re still in the courtship phase,” he says.
Trip, Jon, and Jack—as we soon find out—are all one and the same (that’s no spoiler, given the title). Complications abound. They proliferate, lurk, and intermingle. They spawn. The delicious and tantalizing premise of The Three Mrs. Wrights is watching three very different but smart and savvy women coming to grips with the ugly hot truth of the man who deceived them.
Gimmick for a thriller? No. More like a human exploration of desire, needs, honesty, female careers in a patriarchy, female ambition in an age of inequality, our general predispositions to trust, social media, and the stories we tell about our own lives (the stories we want others to know and not know). If this is the age of the con, this novel is its mirror. The Three Mrs. Wrights is a page-turning beach read but chock full of meaty issues worthy of any book club.
Trip Jack Jon is a man on the move and part of the fun of The Three Mrs. Wrights is watching him ramp up fibs to regular old lies to whoppers. Of course he’s no more a straight shooter in the workplace so The Three Mrs. Wrights not only riffs off the “Dirty John” podcast (and television series), it also explores scandals like the recent Theranos implosion, where grandiose proclamations inevitably encountered the realities of investor expectations.
But the novel stays grounded because Linda Keir—the writing team of Linda Joffe Hull and Keir Graff—give Lark, Jessica, and Holly distinct three-dimensionality. Within a few cycles of the chapters churning—and 99 percent of the novel is told through their eyes, except for one brief glimpse through Mr. Wrong’s eyes at the end—you will quickly become familiar with each of their traits, wants, and issues. It was a touch brilliant to give us one long-standing relationship (Holly), one on its way to marriage (Jessica) and one new blossom (Lark; a perfect name). The Three Mrs. Wrights is a triptych of hope, acceptance, and resignation.
The story zooms from Los Angeles to Cancun and Europe. Jessica and Holly have reason to meet, then Jessica and Lark. We know they’ll figure it out (of course they will) but the big questions are how they will treat each other, how they’ll catch the man who is duping them and, more importantly, how justice will be served. That’s the suspense. Trip Jon Jack is in a three-sided room and the walls are closing in. The story milks the final moment for all its worth and chooses the only location that makes sense. Hell hath no vehemence like three women scorned, but the climax stays within the book’s smart tone.
At one point Holly and Jessica are pondering the character and traits of the man who has hoodwinked them—as well as all the investors in the medical company that’s on thin ice. “He had a way of making true believers out of everyone,” says Holly.
The Three Mrs. Wrights might prompt a search in your world for those who have made true believers, in any aspect of your life, out of you. If not, it’s a juicy read all the same.
Previously reviewed: Drowning With Others
Previously reviewed: The Swing of Things
Includes Q & A with Linda Joffe Hull and Keir Graff