Book Review: The Husbands by Chandler Baker


The Husbands
Chandler Baker
Title: The Husbands by Chandler Baker

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟(4 stars)

Publisher: Flatiron Books

This was a page-turner, mostly in the second half and the final quarter was amped up even higher. I enjoyed it as a bit of domestic noir. It was at times, creepy, witty, poignant and hilarious. My feelings were all over the place as I read which is unusual for me. 

I loved the setting and the initial stressful setup. Parity and division of labour are very important when building a life with another and also trying to pursue professional fulfillment and success. It's a lot and I was sympathetic to Nora's plight initially. As I read on, I had an undercurrent of dread what with the murder mystery thread and Nora's willingness to even go along with the cabal's plan and held me back from investing in her fully. 

What made me hold back a bit is that I just didn't buy the idea that the only way to balance the scales is to take away the agency of the man you've married. I'm very much a woman who isn't interested in changing my husband. I control myself and I don't acknowledge any responsibility of controlling him. So if there's anything I don't like or don't want to do, I don't and I say so. I demand the same thing of him that he demands of me, to be a participating adult. I realized early on that I became to social keeper of the marriage. Invitations, Thank You notes, Christmas, birthday, christening, condolence correspondences etc (and appropriate gifts and/or flowers) and all current addresses are my provinces. Somehow, we successfully co-manage the calendar. During the pandemic, I renamed my desk and work area The Office of Procurement and handled "All The Things". I didn't mind doing any of it and it was chaotic at times wrangling everything into my system of order. I also haven't washed a dish, taken out trash or recycling or dusted the entire time as my husband does all of that (even pre-pandemic). 

I recognize everyone is different and has different expectations and thresholds so I felt for so many of the perspectives in the book (from "I'm tired" to "I can't just NOT do All The Things because they won't be done and then CALAMITY!!"). My advice, speak up, be honest, expect and demand more. I do think this speaks to a broad section of married and partnered women and is just perfect for beach and book club. 

But back to Nora and the story. I couldn't fully root for Nora for much of this and then when she finally turned a corner, half of me didn't want her to succeed against her foes (I really wanted her to pay!). I was completely fed up with Nora's boss to the point that I didn't even commit his name to memory but laughed in satisfaction when near the end, his demise is mentioned. He was completely ridiculous and I recognized the sort. I only wished Nora had found a solution to deal with him effectively beforehand. I SO wanted to know what was in that letter and there was so much tension spooled up that the way that thread tied off just drove me up the wall. I was very invested in the story so I have to give points for that. When all was said and done, I was satisfied with the ending. Apparently, I had a lot of thoughts and feelings about this story since this review is so long. Take it as a positive for the book.

I also appreciated the author's note at the end. Very good points were made. This is the second book of Chandler Baker's that I've read and I would happily read another.

Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an Advance Reader's Copy.

Summary: Nora Spangler is a successful attorney but when it comes to domestic life, she packs the lunches, schedules the doctor appointments, knows where the extra paper towel rolls are, and designs and orders the holiday cards. Her husband works hard, too... but why does it seem like she is always working so much harder?
When the Spanglers go house hunting in Dynasty Ranch, an exclusive suburban neighborhood, Nora meets a group of high-powered women--a tech CEO, a neurosurgeon, an award-winning therapist, a bestselling author--with enviably supportive husbands. When she agrees to help with a resident's wrongful death case, she is pulled into the lives of the women there. She finds the air is different in Dynasty Ranch. The women aren't hanging on by a thread.

But as the case unravels, Nora uncovers a plot that may explain the secret to having-it-all. One that's worth killing for. Calling to mind a Stepford Wives gender-swap, The Husbands imagines a world where the burden of the "second shift" is equally shared--and what it may take to get there.

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