Book Review

My Only Wife

Jac Jemc

Dzanc Books, 2012

194 Pages  |  Buy Now

Reviewed by Jarret Middleton

Smalldoggies Magazine


“Through the portal of these honed, singular images we see the wife at once sweet and then quickly vicious. As the book moves on, it is this cruelty that emerges like a path to the truth of their unraveling.

She rifled through her purse, two fingers clasping the newly lit cigarette, until she found a pack of mint tic-tacs. She popped one into her mouth, grimaced at the mixture of mint, nicotine and vodka. “I found one of the love letters you wrote me when we first met.” She pronounced the word “first” with a delicate slur. “You had written it in pencil,” she said, “so I erased it.”

Through this minor but blunt cruelty she informs him of the miscarriage of their child which she kept secret. Heinous, yes, but her logic is excellently represented. She had no control over her child being taken from her. The love letter was hers, to do with as she pleased. So she destroys it, almost as a sort of test to discover if her will even existed in the realm of the world after such a defeat. The author sculpts her characters to reveal their bare form, which just happens to include their innermost flaws. She impressively closes the gap between objects and affects, emotion and experience, exactly what any attempt at accurately portraying our world requires.

The dialogue in hindsight is cryptic, inaccessible but accurate. At times, very seldom, the language runs a bit too thin, exposing some metaphors that border on transparency. But even this could be equated with how sappy and obvious we can be in our less flattering moments, which is what My Only Wife is mostly comprised of, unflattering moments. Metaphors are layered so thinly over one another that they return us, again, to the mysterious truth of presence in love and in the world.” [. . .]