Friday, May 21, 2021

Book Review: The Hunting Wives

By Jami Denison

When it comes to comparisons of predators and prey, men are almost always likened to the former and women to the latter. In relationships, men are supposed to be the pursuers and women the prize. And where crime is concerned, men are the instigators and women the victims. Lord help the man who claims of a physically abusive woman.

In her novel, The Hunting Wives, author May Cobb turns that expectation around. In this book, women are the ones with the guns, the ones using men as playthings, the ones with the power. And they’re the ones with the most to lose.

Sophie O’Neill has given up her career and big-city Chicago life to move back to her small Texas hometown with her incredible husband and gorgeous toddler son. It was supposed to be a dream-come-true, but Sophie’s bored. She quickly becomes obsessed with Margo Banks, a rich beautiful socialite with a group of equally glamourous friends. Margo initiates Sophie into the Hunting Wives. Every Friday night they tell their husbands they’re going out to Margo’s lake house for target practice – a wholesome, uniquely Texas hobby. What they don’t tell the men is that afterwards, they hit the nightclubs to hunt for attractive young men for hook-ups. “But we never go all the way,” Margo tells Sophie. 

Rather than being turned off by this behavior, Sophie is drawn in. She becomes more and more obsessed with the group, alienating her husband and oldest friend, and continually pushing boundaries. But when a teenage girl is found dead near Margo’s property, it looks like Sophie could end up becoming the fall girl. 

The Hunting Wives hits on a fundamental truth—that friendship is vitally important, that it’s harder to make friends as an adult than as a child, and that even adults will do the wrong thing to fit in with the in crowd. Even so, I often had a hard time understanding Sophie’s actions. Her husband is kind, loving, and thoughtful. She finds him boring. Perhaps I just kissed too many frogs before I found my prince, but I found myself shaking my head at the dismissive way Sophie treated her husband. She has an amazing life with her husband and child and she’d rather go hunting on Friday nights than spend time with them. I just couldn’t get it. 

The unlikeable protagonist is a common complaint in fiction, and sometimes keeps otherwise good books from being published. It seems to be a problem uniquely for female protagonists. However, I wouldn’t say that Sophie was unlikeable, but perplexing. If I knew her in real life, I wouldn’t dislike her; I’d shake her by the shoulders and try to drum some sense into her.

The plotting and the structure of The Hunting Wives are both superb. As Sophie gets in deeper and deeper with the wives, it’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. The subplots of the man hunting and the dead girl tie together much more closely that the blurb implies. Supporting characters are fleshed out fully, plot twists are shocking but set up well, the ultimate villain is obvious only in hindsight, and the ending is earned. Not only was I immensely entertained as a reader, but as a writer I was taking notes about the lessons I learned for my own work. 

The ultimate lesson is one we should all take heart: Be grateful for what you have, be it good health, a boring but steady partner, or a homebody childhood best friend. Because too often, we don’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone. 

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review. 

Purchase links:
Bookshop * Amazon * B&N * Apple Books

Add The Hunting Wives on Goodreads

1 comment:

R's Rue said...

This sounds like a book I’d like you to read.