The Wife Tree

The Wife Tree

Book - 2001
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Morgan Hazzard is caught late in life between a cold husband and the self-righteous opinions of her grown children. Forty years of marriage to a hard, prairie-bred man have frozen her into the semblance of a meek and steadfast wife. But when a stroke silences William, Morgan's feelings begin to thaw. A quietly courageous woman emerges and starts to learn -- on the eve of her seventy-fifth birthday -- her own surprising strength and capacity for joy and change.

Morgan's miserable marriage was not the beginning of her hardships. Life on the farm where she grew up was harsh. To her indifferent mother, she was just another mouth to feed. At sixteen, she was raped by an older brother who silenced her with threats; she was sent away to a convent to have and then give up the child. Two of her sons died very young. Her irascible husband, who himself was scarred by childhood horrors, derided her lack of interest in politics and wars, called her stupid, and crushed her confidence. Her six daughters, now living in other countries, criticize her for weakness, for her dislike of modernization and technology, without attempting to understand her. Morgan Hazzard is tired of being underestimated.

Suddenly freed from William's influence by the stroke, which leaves him helpless and mute, she begins to act as she wants. She defies her bridge-playing friends and thwarts the money-grabbing plans of her son. She begins to live life consciously for the first time, reassessing her place in the world. At leisure to observe her surroundings, she sees the landscape afresh, in spite of failing eyesight. In a narrative woven together from diary entries, dreams, unsent letters to her girls, and the recollections she forces on William, an unexpected journey of self-discovery unfolds. An unlikely heroine, Morgan feels like "a lone explorer in an undiscovered land" as she faces the world without William, but her sense of humour and new-found self-worth sustain her. After years of enforced silence she is finding her own voice again. Finally putting aside the needs of her family and making peace with her past, Morgan learns to love herself, which seems a hopeful start. In this extraordinary but triumphant coming-of-age story, Morgan finds peace and self-reliance in her old age as she contemplates her future.

When The Wife Tree was published, the Ottawa Citizen said, "[Speak] creates Morgan as a complicated woman, at seventy-four still unsure of herself, still learning and yearning." Speak is the author of two books of acclaimed short stories, and The Wife Tree, her much-anticipated first novel, has been compared to Carol Shields' The Stone Diaries and Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel . Speak shares with them an interest in depicting real, recognizable people whose lives are less mundane than they first appear; a characteristic also of the work of Alice Munro. The Calgary Herald said: "Dorothy Speak has the remarkable ability to create mature female characters with whom we can readily empathize, and to translate the unspoken into language honestly, wisely and with insightful wit."
Publisher: Toronto : Random House Canada, 2001.
ISBN: 9780679311294
Characteristics: 312 p. ;,22 cm.


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Dec 17, 2011

This should be mandatory reading in grade 12 English, for the insight into ageing.

bruvyp Jul 06, 2011

Lovely, bittersweet story of a woman who's life has seemed meaningless in her husband's indifference and the gradual awakening of self as he is weakened by illness. I loved the format of writing which combines unsent letters to her daughters and her own thoughts and observations. My big surprise was that the setting of the fictional town of Simplicity "near London" is actually Woodstock where the author grew up. You will recognize familiar streets and places.

Aug 15, 2008

Boy does this book hit the Canadian isolation theme on the head! Somewhat bleak but a real interesting story, with some shocking revelations throughout. I enjoyed the book and was happy to have read it.

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