The Ninth Wife
Harper, May 10 2011, $14.99
In 2005 DC folklorist Bess Gray is having a birthday party at her apartment. One of the attendees is fiddler Rory McMillan who thinks of his first wife he married as a teen in Ireland; they traveled to Boston to live. When he and Bess meet, they are attracted to each other. Bess’ former boyfriend Sonny arrives with his pregnant girlfriend Gaia. Rory leaves without saying goodbye.
Rory thinks about his second marriage. He did not want to go home to Dublin and she needed a man as a front. They never slept together as she was a lesbian who divorced him just after she graduated from college. He regrets he hurt his third wife who he met in a Toledo church parking lot over a fender bender.
Rory invites Bess to watch him play the fiddle. She accepts the date. Bess enjoys the performance by Rory and his partner Sean. They go to the National Cathedral where he kisses her. The pair begins a relationship, but he knows he owes her the truth about his eight marriages.
This is an engaging tale with an intriguing theme that for the most part is brilliantly executed as readers meet the merry wives of Rory. The lead couple is a strong pairing and the support cast enhances the story line except for the second half road show in which Gaia and Bess’ neighbor Cricket seem out of place. The elderly spousal abuse subplot brings a serious issue to the plot, but is somewhat muted after a powerful beginning. Still this is a profound look at degrees of togetherness as it is not first, fifth or eighth; it is the last wife that counts.