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Everybody's Son: A Novel
Thrity Umrigar

What grief can do

The Headmaster's Wife - Thomas Christopher Greene

Arthur Winthrop is the headmaster of a school in Vermont. He and his wife Elizabeth are dealing with grief that is not explained until later in the book. Arthur is found in Central Park, naked. He explains to the NYPD that he had an affair with a student, became jealous when she began to see a fellow student, framed the rival for breaking a school rule and killed the object of his affections. Doesn't exactly sound like a great protagonist, does it?

 

Except that's not quite it to the story. As the book moves along we see that Arthur's tale to the NYPD doesn't exactly fit the actual history of events, and without giving too much away we see how much his mental condition has affected his memory and ability to reconstruct his tale. I have to say that I somewhat suspected there would be a twist early on, but I wasn't sure and Greene's writing helped me forget as I tried to untangle Arthur's story.

 

It was an interesting book to read--although I sometimes have trouble following unlikeable protagonists (Arthur looks a little better as the story goes on, but he's still shady), Greene's work kept me interested and kept me going. In retrospect at the end of the book it was a little sad to see how undone Arthur was by his grief.

 

However, that brings me to another point: this book is very much about the headmaster as it is about his wife. And yet while Arthur gets his (just? I don't know) desserts and an uncertain ending, the other characters in this tale get a much more closed and happier one. I'm not sure if the author felt this was justice for Arthur or if he didn't know how to end his book or felt he had accomplished telling Arthur's part of the story and so it was easier to "hand wave" him off, so to speak.

 

Overall I enjoyed it. A quick read that I borrowed from the library, but might not be a bad purchase to read while commuting or on an airplane ride.