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.