The Charmed Wife
"Genre-bending and darkly comic, Grushin's fourth novel is a weird and wonderful triumph." –O, the Oprah Magazine
Cinderella wants her Prince Charming dead in this sophisticated fairy-tale for the twenty-first century.
Cinderella married the man of her dreams--the perfect ending she deserved after diligently following all the fairy-tale rules. Yet now, thirteen and a half years later, things have gone badly wrong and her life is far from perfect. One night, fed up and exhausted, she sneaks out of the palace to get help from the Witch who, for a price, offers love potions to disgruntled housewives. But as the old hag flings the last ingredients into the cauldron, Cinderella doesn't ask for a love spell to win back her Prince Charming. Instead, she wants him dead.
Endlessly surprising, wildly inventive, and decidedly modern, The Charmed Wife weaves together time and place, fantasy and reality, to conjure a world unlike any other. Nothing in it is quite what it seems--the twists and turns of its magical, dark, and swiftly shifting paths take us deep into the heart of what makes us unique, of romance and marriage, and of the very nature of storytelling.
Grushin (The Dream Life of Sukhanov) delivers a dizzying retelling of "Cinderella," one in which nothing is as it seems and fairy tale marriages do not end happily ever after. Jane, 13 years into her marriage with Roland, who initially seemed like "absolutely everything a sad young girl with clouds and dreams for feelings could have wished for," realizes she never loved him. The marriage was merely an escape from her widowed mother whose love was "disapproving, damaging, demanding" and who told Jane as a child that she was only good at mopping dirty bathroom floors and her two older sisters whom she believed were her mother's favorites. Roland, a cruel philanderer, is no fairy tale prince. For revenge, she meets with a witch and sets in motion a curse to kill him, but then settles for a divorce. Jane's freedom comes at a cost: she exchanges her opulent Fifth Avenue home for a small, roach-infested apartment, and takes a job as a house cleaner for a group of slovenly young women. This clever, sometimes humorous novel drags in places and occasionally suffers from its labyrinthine plot, which includes talking mice who have their own adventures, and Jane's destabilizing second-guessing of the fantastical elements. For now, the Disney version wins the day.