Etta

Audiobook Review: The Wife Upstairs

Published January 5th 2021 

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Narrators: Emily Shaffer, Kirby Heyborne, & Lauren Fortgang

Audiobook Length: 9 hours 10 minutes

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending? 

The Wife Upstairs is a stimulating retelling of Jane Eyre. As it is a retelling, it was interesting to know all the pieces before I even began the story. While it does have many elements from the original story, it reads more like a reimagining and the material stands on its own where you don’t need prior knowledge to enjoy this story. The premise of the story drew me in as it was a mystery set in a Desperate Housewives type world where the families are rich and there is gossip all around. As the community is tight knit, there are tons of secrets and yet somehow everyone knows everything.

Jane is 23 and has been in the foster care her whole life and after leaving behind her life in Arizona, she has relocated to Birmingham, Alabama with her creepy roommate, John, who took her in. She now works as a dog walker in the exclusive community of Thornfield Estates. Down on her luck she steals random trinkets from her clients and learns the ins and outs of the upper-class world. While on a walk, she runs into rich widower, Eddie Rochester, and they share an immediate connection. The two begin a whirlwind romance, but there are secrets surrounding both that may not be hidden forever.

The story is told from multiple POVs that help to fill in the gaps. Eddie’s wife Bea and her best friend, Blanche Ingraham, wife of Tripp, mysteriously died in a boating accident on Smith Lake. I enjoyed that each narrator was unreliable and that there were clues throughout so it was easy enough to piece together the ending yet there was still some mystery there. I found myself invested in the ending, yet I could not relate to the connections between the characters. I could not imagine any genuine romantic or other relationships in the story as they were written and needed more to believe any of them. I think this is one reason why I was confused rather than invested in the characters and their relationships. I did enjoy trying to piece together the ending, so it is difficult to fully figure out my feelings on it.

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