“[An] utterly enthralling piece of music, sharp and soulful and ferociously insightful all at once…This singular, spellbinding novel is…an exploration of identity itself.” —Leslie Jamison, author of The Recovering and Make It Scream, Make It Burn
“Wasserman has a unique gift for describing the turbulent intersection of love and need, hinting that the freedom we seek may only be the freedom to change.” —Liz Phair, author of Horror Stories
From the author of Girls on Fire comes a psychologically riveting novel centered around a woman with no memory, the scientists invested in studying her, and the daughter who longs to understand.
Who is Wendy Doe? The woman, found on a Peter Pan Bus to Philadelphia, has no money, no ID, and no memory of who she is, where she was going, or what she might have done. She’s assigned a name and diagnosis by the state: Dissociative fugue, a temporary amnesia that could lift at any moment—or never at all. When Dr. Benjamin Strauss invites her to submit herself for experimental observation at his Meadowlark Institute for Memory Research, she feels like she has no other choice.
To Dr. Strauss, Wendy is a female body, subject to his investigation and control. To Strauss’s ambitious student, Lizzie Epstein, she’s an object of fascination, a mirror of Lizzie’s own desires, and an invitation to wonder: once a woman is untethered from all past and present obligations of womanhood, who is she allowed to become?
To Alice, the daughter she left behind, Wendy Doe is an absence so present it threatens to tear Alice’s world apart. Through their attempts to untangle the mystery of Wendy’s identity—as well as Wendy’s own struggle to construct a new self—Wasserman has crafted a jaw-dropping, multi-voiced journey of discovery, reckoning, and reclamation.
Searing, propulsive, and compassionate, Mother Daughter Widow Wife is an ambitious exploration of selfhood from an expert and enthralling storyteller.
Wasserman's shrewd, beguiling follow-up to Girls on Fire unpacks the ways three women's lives are affected by a sexual predator. In 1999, a woman arrives in Philadelphia on a bus with no memory of who she is or where she came from. Dubbed Wendy Doe, she is placed into care at the Meadowlark Institute for Memory Research. Lizzie Epstein, the research fellow tasked with observing her by Dr. Benjamin Strauss, a semi-famous scientist and philanderer, spends her days conversing with Wendy and mulling over the implicit bargain of her affair with Benjamin, who promises to advance her career. The story flashes forward two decades, when Lizzie, mourning the death of Benjamin, who she'd married after he left his first wife, opens her door to Alice, the 18-year-old daughter of Wendy. Alice is looking for information about her mother, who has disappeared. Wasserman's prose starkly conveys the power sought and held by Benjamin ("Strauss believed in knowledge by colonization, understanding a subject by spreading across every inch of its territory until it was wholly possessed"), and she methodically moves the story toward a disturbing revelation about the connections among Wendy, Lizzie, and Alice. This examination of how one man in power can abuse the women closest to him delivers the goods.