Well, I’m reporting about a book I did not finish. I used to finish every. single. book. I ever read, but about 10 years ago I gave up on that. If the book doesn’t speak to me after about 50 pages, I’m out. I gave this book 64 pages. And then I gave up.
The book (I hate) is Wait for Me, Jack (2017) by Addison Jones (aka Cynthia Rogerson), and it is the book pick for Literary Wives this month. (And maybe it isn’t fair to say that I “hate” it when I didn’t finish it.)
Please check out the other assessments of this novel about being a wife from the following bloggers. We read a book about a wife every other month and blog about it together.
Naomi of Consumed by Ink
Kay of What Me Read
Lynn of Smoke & Mirrors
Eva of The Paperback Princess
The novel starts out interestingly enough. We meet Billie and Jacko, who meet as coworkers and then end up on a date together in 1950 in San Francisco. I was looking forward to seeing how their romance progressed, but the next chapter skips ahead to when the couple is in their 80s, and (strangely) Billie has changed her name to Milly. (I was so confused.) Each succeeding chapter moves us further into the past, so each chapter recounts their lives and relationship from each decade, moving backwards.
The second chapter does have some sweet moments, between all of the farting, shuffling, constipation, memory loss, and dentures. Milly remembers dancing in her youth, and Jack comes in to the kitchen and holds her. He still loves her, and although they are in their 80s, they are still in love. It’s sweet.
And yet, there are hints of Jack being … well, a jackass. The narrative isn’t clear (and again, I didn’t finish the book), but it appears that Jack has children from affairs and has had multiple affairs. He’s a philanderer.
The one idea from the book I appreciated was this: “marriage might be a bit like dancing to radio music. You didn’t know what song you’d get next” (p. 28). At the same time, this is a clichéd way to describe marriage. “Life is like a box of chocolates,” anybody?
My biggest problem with this novel is that it is ALL about Jack. He’s the center of the universe. The second chapter, although kind of sweet, also ends with Jack’s death and describes Milly’s inability to report the death or get out of bed with Jack’s body for some two days. The next chapter follows Jack while he walks the dogs about seven years earlier. He visits a former mistress. I wasn’t sure why this was important or how it advanced the narrative. Why would he be visiting a former mistress (with whom he has a child and who lives in his neighborhood) when they are no longer sleeping together and without his wife’s knowledge.
Anyway, the premise of the story, that Jack is a man’s man whose life is the sun in everybody else’s universe, made me bored and annoyed. I wanted to slap Jack and save Billie, er Milly, from ever marrying him.
You know who he reminded me of? My late maternal grandfather. He and my grandmother also married in the 1950s, when they found out my 16-year-old grandmother was pregnant. They did the “right” thing and then spent the next 50 or so years making it work. While I’m not privy to their entire relationship, I have heard whisperings, especially after he died. My grandmother apparently told everybody after the funeral had ended, the casseroles had been eaten, and the headstone had been placed, that he had run off on her after she had her second child. He went to live with another woman for a time, and then came back. They had two more children together.
My grandfather also frequently commented on my grandmother’s weight. She stands around 5 feet tall and probably weighs between 125 and 140. So, not especially heavy or obese. Yet, she was always trying to diet to please him. He also teased us relentlessly, to the point of tears. (Don’t get me wrong: I have good memories of my grandfather, but he wasn’t perfect. None of us are. And he was certainly a product of his time, just like Jack.) I know my own mother, who has her own set of problems, never got along with him. They often clashed and she has likely spent many years trying to forget his (likely abusive) role in her life. He was also the “center” of the universe, waited on hand and foot, and yet, that felt more like tyranny to many of his immediate family members than it did like warmth and light. I suspect my grandmother wished to divorce him at some point or at many points in her life, but she has not even a high school diploma (thanks to her marriage and pregnancy at a young age), and who would take care of her and her children?
Anyway, I had no patience for Jack, even though I gave him 64 pages. He seemed like a stereotype of an actual man, a man I happened to know and a man I’ve seen portrayed in film and TV. I’m tired of those men. I’m more interested in men who care for others, like my husband.
I’ve been saying lately, “The world would be a better place if men in marriages cared for their wives as much as their wives care for their children.” I know this statement is heteronormative, but we can apply it across relationships. If the partners in a marriage cared for each other, nurtured each other, and worried for each other as much as good and caring parents worry about and attend to their children, we would all be better off.
So, don’t wait for me, “Jack.” Take care of me.
I love your last line! I so agree with you about Jack’s character. Which is why I felt the whole time that Milly was just trying to convince herself that she still loved him, based on the small amounts of time they got along and showed affection for each other. And the fact that she couldn’t imagine being without him. I think the familiar can sometimes feel like love. I felt bad for Milly the whole time. And I can understand your feelings toward the book based on the family story you shared.
You make such a good point, Naomi! The familiar can feel like love, or the unknown can feel so scary that we stay in bad situations. Well said. I felt bad for her too, and I had a hard time believing that she was so sad that she couldn’t get out of bed when he died. I mean, sure, she would be sad. But THAT sad?
I didn’t get the sense that she was in bed because she was sad. Only that she didn’t quite know what to do, so it was easier to do nothing. Which is what she’s been doing her whole life!
Life is too short to read books that we don’t like!!!
Amen forever and ever!
I didn’t exactly say I hated the book, but I agree with you on a lot of what you said. I guess that’s why I kept saying I didn’t understand why they stayed together. And maybe Milly seemed silly to me because she stayed with Jack, or maybe it was because, as you pointed out, it was all about Jack. I thought Jack was a jackass, too. Great description!
He totally was! I wonder if them staying together is more realistic than we want to admit. In their generation, that was what you did. Perhaps it makes a lot of sense but from our perspective, not so much!
It probably was more common, although my folks were almost exactly the same age (a little older), and they got a divorce. I would say they got along better than these two, too.
You know, even though you only gave it 64 pages, you pretty much nailed the book as a whole! I especially like what you are saying about being familiar with this character, that you’ve seen him before and you don’t need to see more of him. I am in whole hearted agreement. I wonder if the book would have been better had we gotten more of Milly though. I kept waiting for her character to break through to me in any way and she kind of faded more and more as the novel wore on.
I’m glad to know that I figured out the book without having to read it! I worried I was being too hasty, but you’ve reassured me. And I think hearing more about Milly or from Milly’s perspective would have made me read more. That’s a great idea for fixing the book.