The Paper Wife


238 pages
ISBN 0-394-28027-X
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is associate editor of the Canadian Book Review Annual.


The friendship of childhood companions Lily and Kate is jeopardized in
their college years, when Lily shares with Kate’s boyfriend, Turner, a
marijuana-induced moment of passion (it is the 1960s). Finding herself
pregnant (in true soap-opera fashion), Lily escapes to Mexico, where she
becomes caught up in the operations of a black-market adoption ring.
Enter Turner, who becomes an unwitting catalyst in Lily’s fulfilment
of the novel’s theme, which leaps off the page like a clarion call:
“To find something, you give up everything.”

The strongest character in this elegantly written but implausible tale
is Mexico itself. Each page exudes the parched, sweaty atmosphere of
this “land of tedium and enchantment.” Less convincing are the human
characters. Why Lily and Kate are drawn to the chillingly self-absorbed
Turner is almost as great a mystery as the reasons for Lily’s ultimate
penance. The Paper Wife works best when its psychologically inert
characters take a back seat to setting and suspense.


Spalding, Linda., “The Paper Wife,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,