Literary Wives is an on-line book group that examines the meaning and role of wife in different books. Every other month, we post and discuss a book with this question in mind:
What does this book say about wives or about the experience of being a wife?
Don’t forget to check out the other members of Literary Wives to see what they have to say about the book!
- Kay at What Me Read
- Emily at The Bookshelf of Emily J.
- Lynn at Smoke & Mirrors
- Eva at The Paperback Princess
Wait for Me, Jack by Addison Jones
Goodreads synopsis: Set near San Francisco, this warm and funny novel follows the fortunes and failures of Jack and Milly for sixty years. They marry in 1952, and typical of post-war couples, shift up a class. Optimistic and full of plans, they see themselves living the American Dream. Through the years they cling to each other despite having little in common. But the clinging doesn’t always preclude infidelity or disappointment, and the social changes they live through impact on their relationship in complex and surprising ways. Ultimately, though, what holds them together is stronger than what pulls them apart.
This is a love story that tells the truth – or one or two truths – about love and marriage.
The first thing that came to mind while reading this book is that it reminded me of Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page, except backwards. This book takes us through 60 years of Jack and Milly’s marriage, but it starts at the end (barring the very first chapter) and takes us to the beginning, each chapter taking place 2 to 5 years earlier than the last. I thought this offered an interesting perspective, as we see things take place that are only hinted at in earlier chapters as events of the past.
The other way I found it similar but “backwards” to Dear Evelyn is that the likability of the characters are reversed. One thing I like about Dear Evelyn is that the man is the more likable character of the two, which is different from most of the books I’ve read about marriage. Wait for Me, Jack is a more common portrait of a philandering husband and the wife who puts up with him.
The social changes that take place over the years and how Milly and Jack take it all in adds a lot of interest to the story: the increasing acceptance of divorce; the Kennedys; civil rights; pot, hippies, and free love.
What does this book say about wives or about the experience of being a wife?
Milly and Jack (Billie and Jacko) are very much products of their time in the way they perceive their roles of husband and wife. Jack is out working while Milly stays home and raises the children. When Jack is home, Milly serves him and tries to accommodate his preferences and moods. For the most part, she doesn’t comment on his activities outside the house, even when they involve other women.
In fact, she often feels a kind of freedom when Jack is away.
… she admitted to herself it had been a blissful week. No cooking real meals, no having to justify where the money went, or why there were no peppercorns in the grinder, or constantly telling the kids to play their records at a lower volume. No arguments. But she’d missed Jack, she had. She always did, but it was such a mishmash kind of missing.
Despite the fact that Milly seemed to accept her role, I don’t believe she was happy in it. I think there are snatches of joy here and there as well as love for their children, but there is also a lot of anger and resentment, and even regret that she so quickly jumped right into marriage with Jack.
At one point Milly develops an interest in another man, but it doesn’t go anywhere.
Milly wondered who she would have become if she’d married someone else. It was a fact that who you married altered you.
Under all the anger and even hate she has felt for Jack over the years, Milly believes she still loves him, or can’t imagine life without him (maybe these are the same thing?). And she believes that Jack feels the same way about her. But is it really love that keeps them together for 60 years, or something else… habit? comfort? (Sometimes I felt as though Milly and Jack were trying to convince themselves they still loved each other.)
He’d been in a bad mood for so long, he couldn’t remember not wanting to strangle his wife. And he did love her, he did, damn it.
Bottom line: In my opinion, even in the beginning before Jack’s philandering, he did not seem very pleasant to live with – he was cranky with Milly all the time. Their marriage had some good moments and resulted in children whom they loved, but really it seemed mediocre at best. Milly considered leaving Jack over the years, but she just never did. And I think, unfortunately, that this is probably a depressingly realistic portrait of a marriage.
How many times had she decided to leave him? And each time she had not, she felt her marriage settle more heavily around her shoulders. Somehow she’d become paralyzed, both literally and metaphorically.
Next Time (June 3, 2019) – A Separation by Katie Kitamura – Join us!
35 thoughts on “#LiteraryWives: Wait for Me, Jack by Addison Jones”
I felt much the same as you did about this marriage, Naomi. Amazing how familiar those quotes are given that I read it over two years ago. Quite a tribute to the writing!
I could especially relate to the feeling of freedom Milly felt when Jack went away. Not that my marriage is like Jack and Milly’s! But I feel a bit lazier when my husband is gone – like a little vacation. I don’t know why… Maybe it’s a bit of the “absence makes the heart grow fonder”? Maybe less adults around to witness any chaos? Ha!
I have that feeling, too, but not for very long!
Yep, Jack is a jerk! I really found this novel tedious.
I think I liked it more than you did, but I do know what you mean. It might have been better if Jack hadn’t been such an obvious bad guy. It probably depends on how many other books about marriage one has read. We just might start finding it hard to find originality!
I didn’t see him as a bad guy so much as a jerk and someone who is full of it. She said her own father wasn’t a philanderer, but she obviously wanted him to have some flaws. I think he had plenty without being a womanizer. His attitude to Milly was pretty shameful at times.
I thought so, too! I don’t even remember getting to see a good side of him in the first chapter, when they meet. He just seemed like Mr. Crankypants all the time!
He occasionally has flashes where he thinks Milly is really cute, but otherwise, yeah, and he’s full of himself.
[Funny if irrelevant fact for you. I’ve read a book with that exact same cover image: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16057433-half-as-happy%5D
Ha! That’s funny.
I find it jarring when I see a familiar cover on a different book – it just doesn’t seem right.
This does sound like a downer. 😦
I had to think about it for a minute – to remember the overall feeling of the book – and, yes, I’d say that’s a very good word one could use to describe this book!
Unfortunately I think that does sound realistic, but are we beginning to ask more from our marriages?
I hope so!
This marriage began in 1952, so it’s not too surprising that it was the way it was. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if there are still a lot of wives out there who would be able to relate to this book.
Thanks for your comment!
Here’s Susan’s review of Wait for Me, Jack (from A Life in Books): https://alifeinbooks.co.uk/2017/01/wait-for-me-jack-by-addison-jones-marriage-and-how-to-survive-it/
It does sound depressingly realistic, but I still often wonder if these not very good but not terrible marriages were worse than the kind of half-life of loneliness and resentment that many (not all!) divorced women (and probably men) seem to live. On that pessimistic note, I’ll merely add that I’ll agree with the majority – Jack sounds like a jerk! I’d’ve dumped him, for sure…;)
That’s a good point, FF. I’m sure that’s a factor in keeping these marriages together – fear of something even worse!
This is very timely, but I literally finished reading Dear Evelyn this morning!!! And as soon as I read the premise for this book in your review I thought of Dear Evelyn before you mentioned it. I really loved it, but like you, I don’t like that this book so seems so typical (philandering husband, wife who puts up with it). I also agree with you that this also sounds very realistic, and probably describes many real-life marriages even today!
Reading this book made me appreciate even more the fact that Dear Evelyn isn’t as typical as most marriages I read about. Looking forward to your thoughts on Dear Evelyn!
This sounds sadly realistic of so many marriages, particularly of that time and generation. I wonder how different the story might be set ten or twenty years in the future?
Someone should write a book about the same couple over and over, one or two decades later (starting fresh) each time. It might be long, and sometimes repetitive, but I would read it!
Ooh, that’s a really interesting concept. How much does culture and time and society affect a relationship? How much would be different and how much the same? I want to read that now!
I would like to compare this story with all the unwritten versions of it!
I can’t remember if you’ve read Dear Evelyn – that’s another good one!
I haven’t but it’s good to know it’s worth reading!
This sounds interesting Naomi, although it’s a shame Jack is such a total jerk, making it a bit easier to take sides. This is the generation of my parents marriage, and while they got divorced, I know plenty of their friends who are together in not great marriages but with no plans to leave. I think the societal changes that generation lived through were extraordinary and led to a lot of confusion and uncertainty- perfect for a novel!
It *is* perfect for a novel. But I imagine it would be hard to get right because there was so much going on – it would be hard to know what to focus on in terms of social changes. In this case, the book seemed to focus mostly on traditional marriages vs. the free love movement. Jack was wishing he could take part in that, while Milly didn’t seem pulled in by it at all. But think of all the possible reactions and consequences!
You are spot on that they are a product of their time. I think that’s what makes it so painful to read now, when women have more freedom to leave and have their own money, etc. etc. I just wanted to rescue Milly. And your last line gets me: a depressingly real portrait of a marriage. I wish marriage never had to be this way for anybody, but we know that even in present times people stay in bad situations and perform gender roles that oppress and confine them, men and women both.
It kind of makes you wonder why anyone ever gets married in the first place!
I’m just thinking now about how it didn’t seem like Milly had any good friends, and how much that might have helped her.
This completely intrigues me – although it’s looking close to impossible to track this book down! I’m loving the connection to Dear Evelyn for sure!
Given how much you liked Dear Evelyn, I think you’d like this one too. I was lucky that there was one little library in NS that had it, although it took several weeks to bring it in.
This will just have me searching harder to get my hands on it!! 🙂
I basically agree with you entire post! I think it was habit that kept them together, like Milly especially couldn’t even see her day to day without Jack in it, even though he was a pain in the butt. But I wonder why Addison Jones even bothered to write this book if, as you rightly point out, this book is such a traditional of-its-time look at marriage?
I have two theories (no, three!): 1) It’s based on her parents; 2) she wanted to experiment with a reverse storyline; 3) she wanted to illustrate the complicated nature of long-term love, or show love in its many forms/stages. Or, all three. The problem with #3 is that I didn’t find it convincing.
Do you think you might have enjoyed this one more if you hadn’t read (and loved) Dear Evelyn? It is unusual in fiction, I believe, to subvert that whole philandering-man, Penelope-patient-woman trope (although I’m not convinced that the woman is always the more likeable of a married pair), so I wonder if you hadn’t just read a convincing subversion of the usual story, whether this one mightn’t have been more convincing/satisfying/rewarding?
I had that same thought exactly!