Book Review: Wife on the Run by Fiona Higgins

 photo Wife on the Run by Fiona Higgins.jpg Title: Wife on the Run
By: Fiona Higgins
Categories / Themes: social media, family, bullying, travel…
Read: 20th October, 2014 – 24th October, 2014
Rating: 1 / 5
Obtained: Goodreads
Crossposted Review to: Goodreads

Wife on the Run is a book, by Fiona Higgins, primarily featuring Paula. She finds her family in disrepair after a few events that she finds she can’t deal with. She runs away from her husband, taking the kids and her father. They have a road trip around Australia. In this time, she hopes that she and her family can find some respect for people without social media or the input of her husband. Paula is the wife- she’s worried for her family and the effects that social media is having. Hamish is the husband- a man who, after many years of trying at marriage, has taken to an online affair with a younger woman. Caitlin is the daughter- a teenage girl who has been the victim of social abused on Facebook. Lachie is the younger child- he has no real importance to the plot; he’s a basically there to add an opinion every now and then. Sid is Paula’s father- his own father succumbed to gambling issues. Marcelo is a hitchhiker that the group have picked up.

This is a book that I really didn’t like at all. I originally posted this review on Goodreads and have now edited it a bit for this blog.
Prepare for a bit of a rant. You have been warned.

The plot intrigued me at first, but my feelings completely changed in the next few chapters, especially after seeing things from Hamish’s point of view. I know that she’s mean to seem like a good wife and a good mother, but I couldn’t help but feel that she fails a little in both respects. Rather than talking to her husband after his accident, she barely visits him in hospital and she then decides to take his children away on holiday, not even bothering to speak to him about it, leaving the children to do the hard work. She deprives him of the necessary communication so that he can arrange his own ride home, even to the point where he has to get a nurse to find the telephone number of his friend. On that point, he likely would have had to make his own arrangements for work and not having his phone or proper contact might have meant that he’d lose his job if the situation were more dreadful. On the note of the holiday, it seemed completely ridiculous just to pack up the kids and take them away at a moment’s notice. Sure, both Caitlin and Lachie might be experiencing traumatising feelings about the Facebook incident, but they would still likely have schoolwork to do. Considering Caitlin is meant to be going into her tenth year in a few months, her time would be better spent studying than going on a holiday across Australia. The same with Lachie. How are either of them expected to get good marks (or even graduate) if they’re busy going on holiday? Also, as I read on, I found out that she took homework for them to do. Only once did she try to make them do it, and then I believe she let them throw it out. A stupid thing to do, being honest. As much as she wanted the grandfather to teach them life lessons, they could have done it just as well, while learning a bit of school work now and then. It doesn’t make sense at all to me. It all just seems ridiculous that Paula implies that this is for her family’s own good; that getting away from school/ Hamish might instantly make their lives better. I understand that a lot of people feel the need to get away from their problems, but when they need to get back home, the problems are still there. Not to mention that there are likely going to be more problems. It just makes Paula (supposedly a strong character) seem emphatically weak, that she can’t even bring her kids up to deal with a problem, just to run away from them. There’s likely going to be a LOT of catch up school work for them to do. Not only that, she refused to let her own husband explain the problem from his perspective, which just makes her look selfish because she can’t even think of a problem from anyone else’s’ perspective. This is also shown in relation to the Facebook incident; she just doesn’t really understand it and keeps considering that it just wouldn’t have happened back in her day. She doesn’t even try to understand many of the kids’ other problems such as using social media or even her father’s gambling (or lack thereof) problem. Paula is just so self centred, despite claiming to do all this stuff for others; she doesn’t try to understand other peoples’ problems. She just claims that it wouldn’t happen “in her day” and judges them for having problems, then avoids the problems rather than help fix them.

Paula… Well, she’s a nasty person and I found her to be completely unlikeable. She is the titular “wife” and main character of the book. In the beginning, I could sort of understand her feelings. It seemed that she was really genuinely caring for her daughter’s situation with the school. However, it kind of struck me as odd that she seemed to think more highly of the daughter than she did her son, but then told her husband off for doing the same. In fact, that’s something I can’t get over; how much of hypocrite Paula is. Though. She makes vast rules for their trip- that they ought to be technology and bad language free- she herself breaks the rules to gossip to her sister. Yes, I understand that keeping Jamie updated on location and status is important. However, to gossip about a male hitchhiker is just breaking her own rules. Also, she’s primarily the one to break the bad language rule the most. I also can’t condone wilful destruction of property. Nope. Not going to do it. No matter how angry she is at Hamish, it’s just downright nasty to destroy someone else’s’ property, and especially things that are so expensive like an iPhone and a laptop. There are people in this world who could really use that type of thing, but don’t have access to it. It’s just wasteful. The same with the alcohol; it’s just wasteful and you’re basically pouring your money down the drain. Also, it was shameful that she used her son’s chess magazine to prop up a wobbly table. Doesn’t she have any respect for anyone else’s’ property? Despicable. Now, I don’t drink and I’m not usually one to judge peoples’ alcohol intake. However, it just seems ridiculous to me that she complains at her children for wasting the entire $250 grocery budget on junk food, when she and her father take up alcohol every single night. She makes a major complaint about only having a limited budget for food. Alcohol isn’t necessary and it just seems hypocritical that they’re spending money on booze when they could be spending that money on extra provisions or something that could really be used. She keeps on complaining about these money troubles, but keeps on partaking in unnecessary things like alcohol and a Brazilian wax. It was such a waste to throw out those cloths in the beginning as well; they could have been used. Even if they don’t fit you at the time, they can be re-purposed into something else or even “let out” into a proper fitting garment if you bother to get some fabric and go at it with a pair of scissors, a needle and thread.

Hamish is the husband of the family and, in addition to Paula’s perspective of the tale; we also get a look at his views on the events. His behaviour is somewhat understandable when we do experience his side of the story. As much as we’re meant to hate Hamish, I kind of valued that he was willing to put in such a huge effort to the relationship. After his wife left with the kids, he went to great lengths to try finding them and in trying to make amends. In the first chapter, it became painfully obvious that we’re meant to think poorly of him; Paula made a big deal about him being on the phone all the time, but never being able to contact him for anything important. I admit, I kind of fell for that as well and did think a bit badly of him. However, in the second chapter, it became a little clearer to me about his feelings and I drew to like him. Though, it becomes even more evident that we’re meant to think badly of him. It just seems like he meant well all through the first few chapters. He provided for his family, well enough so that Paula didn’t even have to work. She wanted a new job and then I think the author was trying to imply that it was Hamish’s fault that he was making too much money that she didn’t need to become a midwife. He wasn’t necessarily saying that she shouldn’t do it; he was saying that it wouldn’t pay out much in comparison to the work that she would put into it. Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, we were put into the mindset that Hamish isn’t as good a father as Paula is a mother. Right from the birth of Caitlin, Hamish faints and when he wakes up, she won’t let him hold the baby. Yeah. She doesn’t even want him to hold the kid. From then on, Paula just seems overly controlling. She keeps on implying that he’s doing the wrong things and that he ends up only being allowed to do “blue jobs”, DIY work, like building cots and stuff. To me, however, it just seems like he’s kind of depressed and sad about his situation. He is genuinely trying to do the best for his family and even steps out of Paula’s way so she can be a better mother. He does his best in trying to raise both children, even if he doesn’t really understand them. I thought it was really gratuitous to have him have an “affair” with the 17 year old girl over the internet. The sexual impulses he felt towards other women were only natural and it just felt as if the author were trying to make Hamish out to be really nasty. Even Paula has an affair with another person, but for some reason we’re only meant to think poorly of Hamish.

Now, about the plot line with Hamish’s affair. I just think it was completely gratuitous. Firstly, as I probably said at one point above, I think that the author was just trying to make Hamish seem like a really bad person. It’s not enough for some authors to give them one or two negative traits, some authors just have to go to the end of the Earth to make them look bad. The author keeps on finding reasons to make Paula angry with him; the affair, body issues, work schedule, etc, etc. The worst thing is that I still think that Paula is more at fault in any of this. Hamish wouldn’t have had the actual affair if she hadn’t left him and taken the kids away. Not to mention, she had an affair as well, right? Yeah, and at least he was smart enough to think about protection when having it off with some weird stranger. Yet, the author keeps on trying to imply that Hamish is the worse of the pair. It doesn’t make sense at all. I don’t understand why the author keeps on implying that Paula is a good wife when she left him right when he needed her the most, when he was in a hospital bed and unable to do anything. Then she also makes a comment that their seventeen years marriage is thrown away over Hamish’s online affair, yet she was the one to pack up the kids and leave without even trying to talk through the problems. SHE was the one throwing the marriage away when a problem arose. She wouldn’t have even found out if she hadn’t been prying into his private matters in the first place. Also, she kept on complaining that he didn’t want to have sex with her, even so much as kiss her, but in his monologues he comments that he offered on multiple occasions. I’d like to also state that I don’t advocate him having an affair with a 17 year old girl, obviously. I think the entire relationship between him and this girl, and the weird thing about her mother, was muddled and not thought through by the author. I’m sorry, but the more the author tries to get us to support Paula, the stupider the character becomes.

The kids are also lackluster characters. They’re very stereotypical and there’s nothing particularly original about either of them. Caitlin, the elder of the children is the victim of a Facebook incident. She’s a sporty teen, smart, popular, good looking and has lots of friends. The youngest of the pair is Lachie, who has no real important plot line and is of little value to the story. The author keeps on implying that Hamish looks down on him. Paula says that she treats them both equally, but obviously treats Caitlin better. Anyway, Lachie is your typical “geek”. He enjoys things like chess, console games, reading and any other things that the author thinks your stereotypical geek does. Which is also pretty weird to me considering that Caitlin seems to be the bookworm, whilst Lachie doesn’t really care about schoolwork? The weirdest thing is that, from their personalities and the way they speak, neither teen really shows much of these traits, except for when they’re being introduced or spoken about. It seems to me that the author wanted the kids to be a certain way, but didn’t actually know how to write it. The thing that’s most surprising is the bad language that comes from their mouths. Paula doesn’t seem to mind them speaking with such contempt, which is later proven when she ends up using more bad language than them at various points. Also, in the beginning of the book, she doesn’t even care that Lachie was truanting school- something we don’t really get an explanation on anyway… Neither child has a worthwhile plotline. Lachie, despite being one of the main characters, has nothing of interest going on with him. Caitlin’s plotline is worthless. Despite the whole book revolving around an incident at school with her and a friend, there’s only one part of the “mystery” and it ends in a pretty stupid manner.

Sid is Paula’s father. Originally I thought him to be likeable. He seems charming and full of life, despite being an older gentleman. I particularly liked the story about his father gambling away the family’s money and then him having to grow up in poverty afterwards. I thought it kind of sweet with his own gambling plot line where he refuses to place a bet, but still picks out winners. It was adorable and kind of heart warming that he didn’t want to put his own family’s welfare in trouble. It was also really sweet when he made those bets for the retired couple to help them with the animal shelter. I really thought it would have been a nicer plot line to explore. However, thinking back on it so long after reading, his own plot didn’t seem to be very worthwhile. It was the only one that seemed original. Yet it had very little outcome. In the end, it turns out that Sid had placed bets with the intention of giving his daughters something to live on after he passes on, but I felt that it was not well thought out on the part of the author. Likely, if Hamish wanted it, he could mention this to any divorce lawyer and it would be separated between the pair of them. If Sid really intended to give the money to his daughters, it would have been more practical for him to keep it in some sort of special trust fund first, which might then be inherited to the girls upon his death. That would then also make it so that it wouldn’t be accessible to Hamish via any divorce agreement. It was stupid for him to keep the surprise in the freezer, though, not to mention downright confusing. It would have been more practical to just hand the envelope to her and save everyone the bother of waiting weeks to find out what was “in the freezer”. Why bother…?

Marcelo is… Well, he’s a nobody, to begin with. The entire plotline with the guy was so cringe worthy and kind of painful to read. The entirety of his character is essentially a device for Hamish to be jealous and to create anger for him, with basically no pay off considering that the marriage is over anyway- Paula has a ton of reasons why she doesn’t want to be with Hamish anymore. I can’t understand Paula’s decision to trust him in the first place, but I think that she sensed something might go wrong because she immediately tried to blame her father for it; the studies where they needed to talk to strangers… For some stupid reason. The Marcelo plot line got stupider as the book went along. Paula kept on making stupid decisions and her affair with him was nothing short of hypocritical, especially considering the way she treated Hamish about his online affair. The drug running/ conman aspect of Marcelo’s character was fairly obvious right from the character introduction. The thing I don’t understand is that the author keeps on trying to imply that Paula is a smart woman, only set on doing what’s best for her family. It just doesn’t make sense that she didn’t notice Marcelo’s obvious conman nature, being that he had very stereotypical traits for such a character, and also that she took in such a stranger to begin with. The worst thing about the plot line is that she kept on flirting with him, despite being married and making vague considerations to get back with Hamish, though I suspect that she was only having her own affair to get back with Hamish about his own. I’m sorry, but I just can’t get over what a stupid decision it was to begin with; there was absolutely no valid reason for her to trust him and that whole plot line is completely flawed.

I think the plot lines overall were very muddled, especially considering that they were done so badly and much of it seemed completely unplanned. I think that the author ought to have stuck with one or two plot lines, the Facebook incident and Sid’s gambling if I were to choose, and then vastly improved them. Just because, it’s no use having so many plot lines if none of them are planned properly. I think it’s the ending of the book that’s the worst bit. After they get home and are all watching the news for Marcelo’s reveal, that would probably have been the right time to end it. It was a point where I felt that the author had more or less redeemed herself in my eyes. At that point, I would probably have rated the book at three stars. However, after that, the author kept on going and picking at all the wounds that had healed over. What about the marriage? Nope, Paula’s had enough now; time to give up on it. What about this ridiculous plot with Marcel that she’s kind of gotten over already? Nope, we’re just going to rub it in that she had unprotected sex with a conman in a tree… Paula is such an idiot. The Facebook incident plot line had such a stupid ending. It just seems ridiculous that two teenage girls would create such an offensive hoax just so that they wouldn’t have to admit to being romantically involved. It’s especially strange considering that both Paula and Caitlin then comment that Hamish would freak out because he mightn’t understand such a thing, implying that he’s homophobic. Yet, Caitlin and Amy had gone to such ridiculous lengths to not be “found out” in the first place, which I consider to be more homophobic, that they were the ones who didn’t want to admit it to anyone, implying that they were the ones who found it problematic. I think the majority of the homophobia portion was just to, once again, make it out as if Hamish was the bad person, when he really had nothing to do with the Facebook incident or Caitlin’s sexually. He legitimately had no idea of it and we didn’t get his opinion on it, yet he was still made out to be the bad person. I felt it completely ridiculous that the author was trying to blame him for it, when he wasn’t the one expressing homophobia in that instance. He didn’t even know about the relationship, for Pete’s sake. Being bisexual myself, I just found that both of the girls could have dealt with it much better and I can’t believe either of them thought to do such a thing with Facebook would be a good idea. I’m really disappointed with that plot line; it turned out to not only be completely unnecessary, but also upsetting to me. Also, after finding out the ending, I immediately thought to the beginning of that plot line where she had apparently been so upset after the talk she’d had with the counsellor. Well, Caitlin, that serves you right; if you didn’t want to have been upset by it, you shouldn’t have used Facebook like that in the first place. I feel like I wasted a lot of pity on the girl.

Looking back on the book after two years, I think I dislike it more than I originally did. I still think that a lot of behaviour of characters did not make any sense whatsoever. The husband and his silly affair still just seems irrational on his part, especially later on when- for some ridiculous reason- he actually goes and has a physical affair. Why then did the author make it out as if Paula’s affair was acceptable when Hamish’s was so deplorable? In fact, why was any of Paula’s behaviour looked on as acceptable? It’s just not normal that someone will just pick up their kids and leave town. Why was Caitlin so upset about the Facebook incident when it was something that she had made herself? Hamish is a really underappreciated character. Not only did he stay with Paula for so many years of marriage, when he was obviously depressed by it, he really went the extra mile to save the marriage. Heck, he went a whole bunch of extra miles in the attempt to win her back. Despite her mistreatment of him- the judging and not even letting him hold his own daughter after birth, it was obvious that he gave a damn about the relationship and the best for his kids. I wish that I could say the same for Paula; she simply gave up and went to great lengths to avoid fixing problems, even ones that she created. Instead, she blames everyone else for what she’s caused and the bad things she’s done.

Overall, I didn’t like the book. Paula is unlikeable, hypocritical and a pretty shameful example of a human being. Despite saying that she’s doing things for her family’s best interest, the lessons she tries to teach people are somewhat negative and depressing. She treats her husband poorly, leading him to an affair with someone else, and her behaviour towards him is completely disrespectful. Think of a generic crazy ex-partner (male or female) – the type of breaks property, makes wildly insane decisions that don’t make sense, and blames you for their own poor choices. This is Paula. Rather than talk out the issues, she’s teaching her children to run away from them. Instead of talking out her husband’s online affair, she instead destroys a ridiculous amount of property and leaves him. Allow me an example. Think of a relationship between two unmarried people (it doesn’t need to be male and female, it can be any gender arrangement you want or even some sort of business relationship). Let’s just then say that Person A does something that Person B doesn’t like. Instead of talking it out, Person B decides to trash Person A’s stuff. They destroy thousands of dollars worth of things. That’s illegal. Property damage is unacceptable. Yet, the author makes it out as if it’s reasonable behaviour for Paula. Apart from that, there were a lot of stupid scenes that had me cringing because they lacked common sense and the characters just made idiots of themselves. Originally, when reading the plot online, I thought I might like the book and it might be a little adventure where they explore the country and view the amazing scenery that Australia has to offer. It turned out to be an over-dramatised mess of plot lines, none of which made much sense. I’m so very disappointed in Paula. I was looking forward to a book with a strong, female character who takes it upon herself to look after her family. It was just upsetting to see her make so many stupid mistakes. Hamish turned out to be my favourite character. As above, I really felt sorry for him, especially that he kept putting in so much effort to try and get his family back. He really did seem like he was being genuine throughout the book and I can’t help but feel so badly for the way he was treated. I was going to rate it three stars at one point, but after the ending, I can’t help but feel it doesn’t deserve it. Originally, on Goodreads, I had it rated at two stars. However, thinking back on it, I just can’t think of any part about the book that I truly enjoyed. I don’t really intend to read more of this author’s work in future.

There’s a lot of bad language, sexual content and mature themes in the book. Please be warned when reading it.

I won a copy of this book via Goodreads Giveaways and these are just my very honest thoughts on it. I’m sorry for any ranting; it’s just a very confusing and disjointed book.

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