The Wife

A Novel

The Wife

Now a major motion picture from Sony Classics starring Glenn Close.

One of bestselling author Meg Wolitzer’s most beloved books—an “acerbically funny” (Entertainment Weekly) and “intelligent…portrait of deception” (The New York Times).

The Wife is the story of the long and stormy marriage between a world-famous novelist, Joe Castleman, and his wife Joan, and the secret they’ve kept for decades. The novel opens just as Joe is about to receive a prestigious international award, The Helsinki Prize, to honor his career as one of America’s preeminent novelists. Joan, who has spent forty years subjugating her own literary talents to fan the flames of his career, finally decides to stop.

Important and ambitious, The Wife is a sharp-eyed and compulsively readable story about a woman forced to confront the sacrifices she’s made in order to achieve the life she thought she wanted. “A rollicking, perfectly pitched triumph…Wolitzer’s talent for comedy of manners reaches a heady high” (Los Angeles Times), in this wise and candid look at the choices all men and women make—in marriage, work, and life.
  • Scribner | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743456661 | 
  • April 2004
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide for The Wife by Meg Wolitzer
1. After attempting her first short story in the library stacks at Smith College, Joan, the protagonist of The Wife, imagines "what it was like to be a writer: Even with the eyes closed, you could see" (p.46). Explain how this observation could also be made of wives. What does Joan see even when other people think her eyes are closed?
2. In Chapter Two, Joan meets the writer Elaine Mozell who warns Joan against trying to get the attention of the literary men's club. How might Joan's life have been different without Elaine's discouraging advice haunting her?
3. On a trip to Vietnam with Joe, Joan finds herself on an airstrip, in a segregated clump, with the wives. But Lee, the famous female journalist, chats with the men. Joan laments to herself "I shouldn't be here! I wanted to cry. I'm not like the rest of them!" (p.134) How is Joan different from the rest of the wives who appear throughout the novel? In what ways is she similar?
4. Joe's friend, Harry Jacklin, praises Joe's work, telling him, "You've got that extra gene, that sensitivity toward women" s (p. 25). Indeed, we discover that Joe's "sensitivity" is primarily thanks to his wife. How do you think Joan would have been received in the literary world if her name had been attached to the same material? Do you think she would have been as successful?
5. After Joe receives the call confirming he has won the Helsinki Priz see more

Articles About This Book

Off the shelf vertical blog post

Posted on Off the Shelf

Posted by Caitlin Kleinschmidt

We are all familiar with Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Doris Lessing, Simone de Beauvoir, and the contributions they made to feminist literature. But great literature concerning feminist themes is not confined to these classics. Many of our most...

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About the Author

Meg Wolitzer
Photo Credit:

Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer’s novels include The Female Persuasion; Sleepwalking; This Is Your Life; Surrender, Dorothy; and The Position. She lives in New York City.

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