My Only Wife – Jac Jemc
Final Thoughts: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
If you’re reading this, it means I am dead. Just kidding. But, if you are reading this, it does mean that I’ve already posted five-star reviews for Jac Jemc’s The Grip of It and A Different Bed Every Time. Thought I was done, did you? Well, you were mistaken, because here is one more for the books!
His wife has disappeared, leaving a chaotic mess of their apartment, and a thousand questions fleeting through the narrator’s broken heart and mind. He soaks in his hindsight, and describes to us the enigmatic, frustrating, beautiful existence of his wife, and the uncontrollable nature of her leaving.
Jac Jemc has given us a story with minimal movement, a barren landscape of context, and a claustrophobically small cast of characters. The anonymous narrator’s recanting of his mysterious wife is ethereal, strange and emphatic in its insistence that the narrator grieves for the idea of his wife, rather than the reality of her.
The narrator’s timeline jumps around, highlighting key memories from the story of his marriage. As he files through his experiences, we feel his adoration, and ultimately, we feel his disappointment when their romance falters, and his rage when he is finally left alone. In the midst of his memories, the narrator also repeats stories told to him by his wife and strangers. These miniature stories are fables, totally complete and self-sufficient within the larger novel. It’s these tiny stories that cement Jemc as one of my favorite modern writers. They are equally abstract, and keep a reader searching for the moral and relevance.
Jemc’s abstract writing is, in a word, captivating. Her prose is entirely poetic, and some part of me feels like it breaks the rules of what a novel is supposed to be.
There was a time when I wrote a few pages of a small chapter of an imaginary novel, and when I showed it to a friend of mine for a quick review, o was told that it was too wandering, too musing, and that people don’t necessarily want to read a string of stylistic word choices. Poetry is not a compelling story, basically. Jemc writes the way that this friend told me not too, and honestly, My Only Wife has reinvigorated the idea of experimental literature. Words and stories can be surrealistic and still be attractive to readers. There are no rules to art, but if there were, Jemc beautifully breaks them all.