My Husband the Stranger by Rebecca Done is a difficult, depressing story about how the life of a newly married couple is changed when Alex, the husband, has an accident which changes his behaviour. Alex’s wife Molly finds herself living with a stranger who looks like the man she loved. This is a study of the emotional aftermath of living with someone with a brain injury. It is not a romance [as the cover style suggests] or a psychological thriller [as the cover blurb hints].
The story is told in alternating sections, Molly and Alex, then and now, as the story is told of how they met, married, their plans for a life together, and then the accident. The first half is slow reading, sometimes repetitive and emotionally-charged. The only thing that kept me reading was the belief that something had to happen soon. The story follows their daily life as Molly deals with a bullying boss and an ex-girlfriend of Alex’s who flirts with him and sends him text messages. Molly feels isolated but is too proud to admit it.
When Alex sets fire to the kitchen he is rescued by a neighbour, an elderly lady who asks Molly how she is coping; she explains how she cared for her husband who had dementia and recognises the difficulties Molly is facing. As Molly mourns the man she fell in love with, she struggles to dutifully care for Alex. She wants to take care of him and brushes off well-meaning offers of help from friends and family. Alex’s twin brother Graeme is a little creepy, and Molly’s parents are too good to be true and crass in the way they pressure her to start a family. Meanwhile, her employer in London is offering her old job back. Should she move Alex away from Norfolk, away from the village where he grew up? Or should she leave him behind and go on her own?
A couple of things jarred with me: contradictions in the portrayal of what Alex is capable of on a day-to-day basis. He has a temper tantrum in an electrical store, but is okay going to a noisy pub or finding his way to the golf club on his own.
This is a tale about the realities of life and how romance can be lost in the most brutal way.
‘My Husband the Stranger’ by Rebecca Done [UK: Penguin] Buy at Amazon
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