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THE POCKET WIFE by Susan Crawford: Book Review

What happens when you can’t trust yourself to distinguish between fact and fantasy?

That is the dilemma that faces Dana Catrell after she staggers home from a neighbor’s house, having had too much to drink.  Waking several hours later from a restless sleep, she hears the sound of sirens getting closer and closer.  Going outside to find out what’s happening, she sees an ambulance in front of Celia Steinhauser’s home, which she had left several hours before.

At the Steinhausers’ door she sees Celia’s husband Ronald, apparently in a state of shock, standing next to the bloodied body of his wife.  Celia is still alive, but she won’t be by the time she reaches the hospital.

Belatedly, Dana realizes that she must be the last person to have seen her friend before she was attacked.   She remembers Celia showing her a photo on her cell phone, a photo of Dana’s husband Peter sitting in a compromising way next to a buxom blonde.  What happened between the time Celia yelled at her to come over because “it’s life or death,” and the last thing Dana remembers saying to her, “I don’t ever want to see you again?”  It’s all so hazy.

Dana has bipolar disorder, and when she doesn’t take her meds and goes into a manic phase, she loses control.  Everything is bigger, brighter, larger than life, but in that state her reality often slips.  Now she truly can’t remember if Celia was mortally injured when she left her house, and she’s not sure exactly what the photo on Celia’s phone showed.  Was it really Peter?  And why was Celia so distraught about it?

Dana is not surprised that her husband could be having an affair.  Her relationship with Peter has spiraled downhill over the past couple of years, but she lacks the strength to confront him.  Instead, that night she waits until he’s asleep and accesses his phone, looking for numbers that seem out of place.   Under “C” she presses a number with no name attached; stunned, she sees it go to Celia’s voice mail.  It’s a second cell phone belonging to Celia, not the one which Dana used to call her.  So that’s why Celia was so upset seeing Peter and the unknown woman together, Dana thinks; she’s been having an affair of her own with him.

The Pocket Wife is Susan Crawford’s first novel, and it’s a terrific one.  The characters and the plot are totally believable, and Dana is a sympathetic main character.  While at times the reader may want to shake her for not taking her medications, it’s understandable in the context of the drugs making her life dull and gray.  She doesn’t want to live in that dullness, but the manic stage brings its own dangers and problems.

You can read more about Susan Crawford at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.