Viva Straight, a single woman who works for the Refugee Board of Canada, has set off with her mother for their annual holiday in the Dominican Republic when their plane is mysteriously diverted to the Philippines. There she meets and has a night of bliss with the enigmatic Monsieur Epee, who presents himself to her imagination as the ideal man – apart, perhaps, from the fact that he is possessed of a beautiful wife already.
So begins Leon Rooke’s exhilarating new novel populated by Viva’s extended family, numerous beautiful wives, seductive men, an unusual cat, Father Sin, the Sock People, the author himself and his researchers, a few ghosts, and even the shoe lady herself, Imelda Marcos.
The Beautiful Wife is an endearing marvel of narrative invention and narrative drive. It explores the quest for love and the mystery of attraction between men and women, celebrating links between art and politics and romantic love. It demonstrates, as well, the miraculous pull of myth and the pure necessity of ideals. Hailed as a national treasure, Leon Rooke is a master conjurer for whom grief, love and laughter are essential ingredients, profoundly mixed. The Beautiful Wife is fresh proof of Rooke’s own astonishing imagination and the power of love.