Wife in the Fast Lane
by Karen Quinn
Published by Touchstone
424 pages, 2007
Getting Up to Fall Down
Reviewed by Mary Ward Menke
"Love, career, children. Pick two." That's a choice Christy Hayes never thought she'd have to make.
In Wife in the Fast Lane, the former Olympic champion, now the successful founder/CEO of Baby G, an athletic shoe company, has finally met and married the love of her life, sexy media mogul Michael Drummond. Childless by choice, due to Michael's angst at his failed first marriage and resulting non-relationship with his daughter, they've settled into the fast-paced lifestyle of the rich and famous, and perpetual wedded bliss.
That all comes crashing down a few months later when Maria, Christy's housekeeper and confidant, dies suddenly, leaving Christy to raise her 11-year-old granddaughter. Michael refuses to get involved in young Renata Ruiz' life, reminding Christy of their agreement. As if that weren't enough to send Christy into a funk, her business partner and best friend, Kathleen, stabs her in the back, ousting her from Baby G, a female newspaper reporter is set on breaking up her marriage, and the PTA at the private school she chooses for Renata is headed by the Stepford mother-from-hell.
Wife in the Fast Lane, the second novel by Karen Quinn (The Ivy Chronicles) is not without problems. One is that there are too many coincidences here to make it anything more than average chick lit. Quite a few of the situations seem contrived: the head of the PTA just happens to be the wife of a man Christy had a one-night stand with a few days before she met Michael; Maria has a stroke and dies the same day she has to miss Renata's school play to help Christy host a party. And who just happens to be in the other dressing room at a boutique where Christy is buying lingerie in an attempt to reignite the passion in her marriage? Michael and the newspaper reporter, of course.
Character development in Wife in the Fast Lane is uneven at best. Michael is hardly a sympathetic character, and other than physical attraction, it's hard to see why Christy would be so enamored. When his teenage daughter shows up after being kicked out by her gold-digging mother and the new boyfriend, blood relationship aside, it's hard to figure why Michael would bend over backwards to rebuild that father-daughter relationship, while continually rejecting poor Renata. Worse, some of the characters are downright clichés. Maria's Mexican family, fresh from the goat farm and complete with three more Marias, is the most obviously so.
However beleaguered, Wife in the Fast Lane is still a fun read; in fact, the problems mentioned might even contribute to the fun. Issues, however contrived, aren't wrapped up quickly and neatly and even the clichéd characters have enough of a grain of truth that readers will often catch a glimpse of someone they know. Christy's attempts to become the perfect wife and mother using the same leadership skills that failed her at her first career are misguided and hilarious. Best of all, the mere fact that Christy keeps getting up only to fall down farther and harder keeps the reader turning the pages, alternately laughing and sympathizing. The ending, completely contrived and happy, will satisfy chick lit fans everywhere. | May 2007
Mary Ward Menke is a contributing editor to January Magazine and the owner of WordAbilities, LLC, providing writing and editing services to businesses and individuals. Her work has been published in The Toastmaster, Dog Fancy and Science of Mind magazines, in the Suburban Journals (a weekly St. Louis community newspaper) and on STLtoday.com.