Book Review: Man And Wife by Katie Chase

Finally. It took me months to get through this short story collection, I started reading on May 2, 2016 and completed it last Saturday afternoon (September 3).

17230794 The first story in the collection is “Refugees” it is narrated by a teenage girl whose family having lost all their possessions is living in a camp with other family subsisting on lentils and rice, the story primarily focuses on family, abandonment, parent-child relationships and there are some religious undertones as well.

The second story, the one that disturbed me the most was, “Man and Wife.” This tale was narrated by a teenager, looking back at her courtship and eventual marriage at age 9. Yes nine. The child goes from playing with Barbies with her friends to being fully aware that a man decades her senior has expressed an interest in her, and her family consents to his proposal and starts grooming the child for marriage.

The other stories are less remarkable in that the treatment of the subject matters in that they are far less cringe worthy (well maybe just a little). Blood Feud, Old Maid, Creation Story, Every Good Marriage Beings With Tears, The Hut, Pater Noster.

The stories were interesting and thought provoking and strange, but I could not connect with the tales.  With themes of womanhood, feminism, patriarchy, female oppression, child abuse, violence against women, these stories started strong but then each was told in the first person narration, the voice does not vary much, it is almost the same throughout.  And stories are neither character or plot driven. Instead it is almost as if the writer chose these themes and built these open ended stories around them. Another matter that I found almost disorienting was my inability to confidently pinpoint a place and time for all these stories, it was almost felt like entering a separate dimension each time I down to read one of Kate Chase’s creations.

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