Friday, March 14, 2014

In my TBR pile: A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante and Q&A

When Dr. John Taylor is found dead in a hotel room in his hometown, the local police find enough
incriminating evidence to suspect foul play. Detective Samantha Adams, whose Palo Alto beat usually covers small-town crimes, is innocently thrown into a high-profile murder case that is more intricately intertwined than she could ever imagine. A renowned plastic surgeon, a respected family man, and an active community spokesman, Dr. Taylor was loved and admired. But, hidden from the public eye, he led a secret life—in fact, multiple lives. A closeted polygamist, Dr. Taylor was married to three very different women in three separate cities. And when these three unsuspecting women show up at his funeral, suspicions run high. Adams soon finds herself tracking down a murderer through a web of lies and marital discord.

With a rare combination of gripping storytelling, vivid prose, and remarkable insight into character, Alice LaPlante brings to life a story of passion and obsession that will haunt readers long after they turn the final page. A charged and provocative psychological thriller, A Circle of Wives dissects the dynamics of love and marriage, trust and jealousy, posing the terrifying question: How well do you really know your spouse?

I can't wait to start reading A Circle of Wives! It sounds so interesting! I had to share! I haven't read Alice LaPlante before, so I'm also excited about reading a new author. Have you read her books before?

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Author Q+A, a conversation with Alice LaPlante

On the surface, your first book, Turn of Mind, which examines the interior of the mind, seems very different from A CIRCLE OF WIVES. But in both books you use the framework of a mystery to explore the characters’ psychology. What made you want to write another book in this style?

I enjoy the pacing and structure of mysteries/thrillers, but my heart is in the characterizations. I couldn’t write a more conventional detective novel—my mind just doesn’t work that way. Instead of whodunit, I’m much more interested in whydunit. Flannery O’Connor wrote in Mystery and Manners something to the effect that as writers we want to transfer our attention from the external mystery to the internal ones. That’s what I’ve tried to do with both Turn of Mind and A CIRCLE OF WIVES.

You create four very distinct female characters in A CIRCLE OF WIVES: Detective Samantha Adams and Deborah, MJ, and Helen (Dr. Taylor’s three wives). Is there a particular character that you closely relate to, and is there one that pushes your buttons?

I don’t know about relate to, but I found myself liking two of the characters in particular very much: Sam, the young detective, and Helen, the third wife. I liked Sam because she has a wry, self-deprecating way about her that makes her seem both tough and vulnerable. She’s very honest and I think quite emotionally intelligent. Helen I like because she’s achieved so much at a relatively young age yet hasn’t let it go to her ego. She’s truly fascinated by her work and, despite her own characterizations of herself as being on the clinical side, has a big heart.

In this book you explore the nature of marriage. Why did you choose to focus on that relationship?

It was just in the nature of the situation I chose to write about—a doctor who is found to have three concurrent wives. That intrigued me. Why would he do such a thing? Why would the women put up with the diminished relationship they would inevitably have in such a situation? Even if they didn’t know the reason that their “husband” was so unavailable, the fact would be that he was unavailable, both emotionally and physically. I was interested in exploring all this, specifically from the points of view of the women. Marriage has always fascinated me—such a mysterious relationship, and never obvious from outside the institution what keeps two people together or breaks them apart.

Even after his death, Dr. John Taylor exerts a powerful hold over the women he was married to, and even over the detective investigating his murder. What makes him so magnetic to these women?

I think he was genuinely attractive to women because he truly saw them. He looked deeply into the women he chose to have relationships with, saw their strengths and weaknesses, and, I believe, accepted them for who they were. That he was able to do so with such different women was to me the really interesting part—each of them gave him something special that he couldn’t get anywhere else.

What were each of these women seeking in their marriage to Dr. Taylor, and were they ultimately fulfilled?

I think that Deborah was seeking status and security; MJ, an emotionally safe haven from a rather rough life; and Helen, passion for the first time in her life. Except for MJ, I think they did get what they wanted out of their relationships with John Taylor. MJ was perhaps the worst betrayed, in my opinion.

Did your perspective on marriage and the expectations, hopes, and passions attached to it change throughout the writing of this novel?

It’s funny, but writing books always changes your opinion about what you’re writing about! It was that way with Turn of Mind, and it was that way with A CIRCLE OF WIVES. I think before I wrote it, I would have been more inclined to judge a man like John Taylor harshly for his deceptiveness. Now I see that he brought real happiness to each of the women in his (busy) life. He wasn’t a monster… just had unconventional ways of having his needs met. 

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