By the middle of the book, you’re satisfactorily muddled as to who is telling the truth: Jeanie Taylor or her husband, Glen? He is a little like the male character in Sleeping with the Enemy, a perfectionist in the extreme. But that does not necessarily mean that he is guilty of kidnapping Bella, a toddler who was playing in a nearby garden and disappeared while her mother was briefly occupied within their home.
Perhaps it is Jean who kidnapped the child. Even though she is meek, and almost childlike herself, she so longs for a baby of her own that it’s conceivable she could carry off someone else’s. As the journalist who interviews her says:
She’s smarter than she makes out. Puts on her little house wifely act – you know, standing by her man – but there’s all sorts going on in her head. Difficult for her because I think she believed he was innocent at one stage, but something changed. Something changed in their relationship.
There is a slow revelation of each character’s personality and the dynamics they have with one another. I like not knowing who to believe, husband or wife. I like wondering how it will all turn out.
But, this is such a tragic book to me. To me, psychological thrillers are a fascinating genre, but not when they include small children in the plot. The Widow turned from being a compelling book about a couple’s marriage dynamics to a horror story that I could barely finish.
That, however, is just my opinion. I passed The Widow to the teacher who works with talented and gifted children in our school, only to find out that she liked it better than Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. When I asked her why, she said it was because she didn’t feel manipulated, and that is certainly a valid point. No one likes to feel that the author has jerked them through a myriad of events just to create a plot that is suspenseful. With that I can agree; Fiona Barton writes her story without any arbitrary twists that end up being more annoying than convincing. And, she leaves us with plenty to think about after its conclusion.