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March 27, 2012

Eileen Goudge on Marriage

Posted by editor

replacement wife.JPGeileen goudge.jpgBestselling author Eileen Goudge has always been fascinated with discovering people's motives. In her new novel, The Replacement Wife, she asks a difficult question --- what would you do if you were told you had only six months to live? --- and weaves it into a story of love, family, and fate. Here, she reflects on the experience that inspired her to write this story and shares some of her philosophy about marriage, life, and love.

A near-death experience is a funny thing. Some see the light. I did what I always do in a stressful situation: made a to-do list as though I was packing for a trip. My husband Sandy jokes that I’d orchestrate my own funeral from my coffin if I could! And speaking of my dear husband, can you guess what was at the top of my list? All I could think about as I lay in my hospital bed was: What will happen to him if I die? Would he marry again? And if so, whom? (Hopefully someone who’d keep my cupboards organized and who could bake a decent pie!)

Flash forward ten years. As you can see, I’m still in the land of the living (far as I know, you can’t blog from the Great Beyond). But the experience sparked my imagination, and that spark fired the plot for my newest novel, The Replacement Wife. What, I wondered, if a wife who learns she has six months to live were a professional matchmaker? Would she try to ensure that her husband would find happiness again after she’s gone?  By that, I mean would she actually set out to find him his next wife? It’s a thorny question and not one that’s easily answered, as I discovered through the multiple drafts I wrote in order to make the story plausible. Why would a loving wife do such a thing? (Even if she’s made it clear she doesn’t mean for him to sleep with the “other woman,” at least not while she’s around.) How could she bear watching them growing closer when most women can’t stand even the thought of their husband with another woman?

As my matchmaker heroine, Camille Harte, discovers, it is a road with many twists and turns and a totally unexpected outcome. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t work out as she envisions. It shines a light on issues in her own marriage that she and her husband had ignored. The introduction of the “other woman” threatens to rip asunder a life that seems all the more dear as she feels it slip away.

I imagine this topic that will spark some lively discussions among reading groups! Every marriage, like every death experience (oops, don’t mean to put the two in the same sentence), is different. What one person would see as the greatest sacrifice a wife could make, another might see as cold and uncaring. What would you do under those circumstances? Could you imagine going to such lengths? And, perhaps more importantly, what would your husband do? Would he balk at the proposition . . . or see it, as my fictional husband eventually does, as an opportunity to bring comfort to his dying wife? Is it possible to stand by your spouse, while being open to the possibility that you might love again?