#LiteraryWives: I’m Fine and Neither Are You

Literary Wives is an on-line book group that examines the meaning and role of wife in different books. Four times a year, 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!

Note: We’ve lost another lovely member of our group – we have become more like “buddy readers” than a book group. If you’re interested in becoming a Literary Wife (you don’t have to be married to a person, just books!), or know anyone who might be, let us know or pass on the word! The more the merrier!

I’m Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagan

Goodreads synopsis: Wife. Mother. Breadwinner. Penelope Ruiz-Kar is doing it all—and barely keeping it together. Meanwhile, her best friend, Jenny Sweet, appears to be sailing through life. As close as the two women are, Jenny’s passionate marriage, pristine house, and ultra-polite child stand in stark contrast to Penelope’s underemployed husband, Sanjay, their unruly brood, and the daily grind she calls a career.

Then a shocking tragedy reveals that Jenny’s life is far from perfect. Reeling, Penelope vows to stop keeping the peace and finally deal with the issues in her relationship. So she and Sanjay agree to a radical proposal: both will write a list of changes they want each other to make—then commit to complete and total honesty.

What seems like a smart idea quickly spirals out of control, revealing new rifts and even deeper secrets. As Penelope stares down the possible implosion of her marriage, she must ask herself: When it comes to love, is honesty really the best policy?


I think this book was a nice change for us – it does not involve cheating, or secret families hidden away on the other side of the world – just ordinary, everyday marriage problems. Many of the challenges highlighted in this book are probably identifiable to most couples.

Penny feels as though she has been single-handedly keeping her family afloat for years now – her husband, Sanjay, is a stay-at-home father/writer. The problem is, he doesn’t help out much around the house, even though he spends most of his time there. And he still isn’t bringing in a whole lot of money with his writing. Penny has let this go a long time, because she wants to keep the peace.

The death of Penny’s closest friend Jenny is the catalyst for Penny to start being honest with Sanjay about how she feels and what she wants from him.

Maybe I’ve read about and heard about so many truly bad marriages that I’m desensitized to them, but Penny and Sanjay’s marriage actually seemed fine to me. I felt as though Penny was panicking about it unnecessarily. They just needed to communicate and spend more time together – something most couples with young children struggle with. Sanjay turned around immediately and started to pull up his socks, systematically ticking off the things on his list. However, when Penny struggled to tick off the things on her own list, she felt like a failure in comparison.

The other marriage in the book is between Jenny and Matt. Penny saw them as the perfect couple with the perfect house and perfect careers, and thought it made her own life look bad in comparison. But Penny found out that their life wasn’t at all what she thought it was. Jenny felt so much pressure to uphold her reputation that she wasn’t able to come clean about her problems, ending in disaster – the author’s nod to the opioid crisis in North America.

The last paragraph of the synopsis is an exaggeration of what’s going on in the novel (IMO). Being honest with each other does not cause anything to “spiral out of control” – it merely makes their conversations more uncomfortable. “Deeper secrets” sounds too dramatic for flirtations that are never acted on. And, based on the characters of Penny and Sanjay, I just could not see their marriage “imploding” any time soon. But these are all good things, in my opinion. I don’t want dramatic and exaggerated; when it comes to books about relationships, I want ordinary and relatable.

What does this book say about wives or about the experience of being a wife?

Trying to keep the peace between herself and Sanjay, actually caused more of a rift as Penny’s resentment of him built up. As all the other stressors in her life ramped up (dead friend, demanding job, dying father), she realized she needed to do something about it. Honesty and communication is obviously the message here – even though it might not seem like the solution in the short term. Jenny’s situation also highlights the importance of being transparent about the way you feel, so you don’t end up feeling like you have to handle everything on your own.

I loved my husband. I loved my kids. I mostly liked my life. But I was so damn tired.

The book does get a little too sappy near the end, but overall I enjoyed it.

In addition to Kay and Lynne, Anne has also read and reviewed the book on her blog.

If we’re able to find more members, we’ll see you again for our next book on the first Monday in June! (Book TBD)

Official Call for Members:

Literary Wives Needs Your Help!

Recently, we’ve had another one of our members resign from the club for family reasons (we’ll miss you!). Now we feel we are getting a little small for a club unless we can recruit a few new members. If you are interested in becoming a member, please let one of us know.

What Does Membership Involve?

We’re looking for people who are interested in reading and discussing how literature depicts wives and marriage. You will need to have your own blog on which to post your reviews so that we can link to it. We read four books a year and try to post our reviews on the same day. These days are the first Monday in March, June, September, and December.

When Would I Begin Working with the Club?

You can jump right in for our next book discussion in June! However, right now, we are just beginning to select books for the next couple of years. Members are more engaged at this time in looking at lists of books, reading about them, and voting for their choices. We only do this every other year, but we will begin this process as soon as we get new members.

21 thoughts on “#LiteraryWives: I’m Fine and Neither Are You

  1. whatmeread says:

    I like your point about trying to keep the peace. That’s exactly it. I also thought the book was a breath of fresh air as far as marriages are concerned, but I agree that they basically had a good marriage and that their problems were easily worked out. I hope we get some new members!

    • Naomi says:

      The thing I wonder about the most is how would things have played out if Sanjay hadn’t gotten his big break right when he needed it. For one thing, they probably wouldn’t have gone to NY, which is where they made some headway.

      New members would be awesome! 🙂

  2. annelogan17 says:

    I still think about this marriage actually, because every time I begrudge my husband not pulling his weight, I think of Sanjay and realize I’m so much better off, because not only does my husband work full time too, he does pull his own weight around our house – and now he even does all the laundry!

    • Naomi says:

      I think so, too. The book would probably be put into the category of “chicklit” or “women’s fiction” but, like any other genre, if it’s well done then I’ll enjoy it!

  3. Karissa says:

    This sounds like a pretty realistic depiction of a lot of marriages. I know I can be tempted to try and take everything on myself and then become quietly resentful of my husband for not doing tasks he is unaware even need to be done!

  4. A Life in Books says:

    I imagine we’ve all had examples of the perfect relationship/family in our lives and been shocked to find the reality is somewhat different. Penny and Sanjay’s marriage sounds much more like the real thing.

    • Naomi says:

      Yes! Sometimes I wonder if the couples that seem the most happy are actually the most miserable. I’m sure it’s not quite that simple, though.

  5. wadholloway says:

    I hope you find the member(s) you need, I’ve always enjoyed your Literary Wives post. I’m sure I’ve said before that my ex-wife and oldest daughter between them believe in talk, talk and more talk to resolve relationship issues and have slowly converted me, so the things you discuss here are always familiar and sometimes I’ve even read the book (List them in advance and I’ll make a bigger effort to keep up),

    • Naomi says:

      I’m glad you enjoy them. And, yes, the books are often more widely read than the books I usually read and write about! Lol
      We actually keep a list of all the books here: https://whatmeread.wordpress.com/about/literary-wives/
      We’re at the end of the list right now, because it’s time to choose some more, but usually you can see several books in advance.
      If you’re ever interested in joining, let us know – don’t let our group name deter you! It would be interesting to have a man in the group!

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