The Wife Tree


312 pages
ISBN 0-679-31066-5
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Patricia Whitney

Patricia Whitney, former coordinator of the Women’s Studies Program at
the University of Prince Edward Island, is the Bank of Montreal Visiting
Scholar in Women’s Studies at the University of Ottawa.


In her portrayal of Morgan Hazzard, a woman facing the terminal illness
of her husband and her own 75th birthday, Dorothy Speak treads a little
on Margaret Laurence’s coattails. In old age, Morgan finally grasps
the opportunities she has lost because of her lifelong acquiescence to
patriarchal power structures. Her belated efforts to become her own
woman, outside patriarchal religion, are fiercely resisted by her son,
Morris, and his gruesome wife, Olive.

Speak is rightly merciless about the judgmental, Christian Right stance
of Morris and Olive. She also hits her stride in taking on the
medicalization of death in Western society, revealing its ego-driven
mania for preserving life at the expense of inner peace and bodily
comfort. At times, the authorial voice is too insistent; one feels the
intrusion of a personal essay in a work of fiction. That said, Speak’s
occasional use of an epistolary technique provides formal interest, and
she manages the complicated plot with aplomb. Morgan Hazzard is no Hagar
Shipley, and Speak is not the writer Laurence was. But she is a real
talent, and The Wife Tree is a worthy addition to Canadian literature.


Speak, Dorothy., “The Wife Tree,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 15, 2024,