Zebra, 2007 (2007)
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Reviewed by Martina Bexte
hat would you do if you discovered your husband has been living another life? Mary Beth Mason and Caroline Mason find themselves facing just such a nightmare when each identifies herself as Stephan Mason's wife after he suffers a fatal coronary. Their lives take an unbelievable turn once they realize that the man they both loved and trusted was a bigamist.
s the enormity of her bizarre and embarrassing situation sinks in, Mary Beth Mason is consumed with anger and resentment toward a husband she obviously did not know. For twenty years she centered her life around pleasing Stephan and raising their daughter Aurora while he traveled on business. The fact that he'd often spent those weeks with his other, much younger wife twists the knife of betrayal even deeper. Caroline too, cannot fathom that she'd been completely fooled by the kind, trustworthy and generous man she thought she'd married. After having her marriage declared illegal, she's prepared to bear the embarrassing label of being nothing more than Stephan's mistress but is convinced the truth could well destroy her seven-year-old daughter.
ach woman is determined to get what is rightfully hers, but within days of Stephan's death they discover that he'd dissolved most of their assets, leaving them with a mountain of debt. Mary Beth is forced to sell her upscale home and find work, while Caroline's business revenue barely covers her huge mortgage payments. Even lawsuits bring no satisfaction - each case could take years to resolve. With nowhere to turn, Mary Beth and Caroline find they have more in common than they thought possible and they strike up a tentative friendship while working to put their lives and their shattered emotions back together.
oth puts a thoughtful and often poignant spin on a sensitive theme, doing a nice job of establishing character as she alternates the story between Mary Beth and Caroline's points of view. She shows each woman struggling to come to terms with her situation and then finding the inner strength and resolve to move forward. Secondary characterizations are also believable, particularly Caroline's caring and dedicated lawyer. Roth relies a bit too freely on coincidence to move the plot forward, but overall,
is a convincing story about two very different women who refuse to give in to what could have been a crushing experience, as well as taking a positive and unorthodox approach to finding a joint resolution for themselves and for their daughters.
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