Wednesday, October 12, 2022

A Woman of Intelligence

  A Woman of Intelligence
Author:  Karin Tanabe
Publication Information:  St. Martin's Press. 2021. 384 pages.
ISBN:  1250231507 / 978-1250231505

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Only one word cut through the noise of a New York afternoon."

Favorite Quote:  "In my world, anything that isn't impossible is possible."

Katharina Edgeworth is an unhappy wife and mother. She is married to a rich, successful physician and is a mother. She is educated and multi-lingual. Prior to her marriage, she worked as a translator for the United Nations. After marriage and motherhood, she leaves that behind. It is the 1950s, and her role as a wife, mother, and housewife superimpose themselves on all else that she is. Is it a sign of the time and place? Does she allow it to happen?

She loves her husband. She loves her children. At the same time, she feels trapped and stagnating. "I think the problem is that I'm not happy. So I'm not happily married." That is a powerful emotion and one, perhaps, that people can relate to. Choosing a path - even one you love - can at times trigger a longing for the path not taken. Unfortunately, with this character, the focus is so completely on this regret that the character ends up appearing completely self-absorbed and not likable. She appears to dwell completely in her unhappiness.

Another unfortunate aspect of the book is that the other characters, to me, are just as one dimensional. The husband is a handsome, successful physician wrapped up in his career. The in-laws are unsympathetic. Even the child embodies the essence of a tantrum-throwing toddler who needs discipline and boundaries which are not forthcoming. Another character introduces the conversation of an interracial relationship, but that thread never develops any depth either.

The plot of the book is that, all of a sudden, a man from her past enters the picture and she finds herself recruited for the FBI! Unfortunately, the way in which this happens and the speed in which this happens is, for me, unbelievable and does not ring true. Katharina is instantly willing to put her family at risk - a risk to life that a government operative may face and a risk to life that rekindling an old romance may engender. That does not seem the mark of a woman of intelligence. The fact that the FBI would recruit someone off the street and immediately put them in a high risk situation rings completely false.

That aspect of the plot also becomes complicated with many characters and connections and events that take a while to untangle and become clear. Despite its billing as a thriller, this book is a very slow read.

I appreciate the question around which this book is based. What compromise does a woman make between  independence and a career and home and family? The reality is that the discussion continues even today and definitely more so in the context of women than men. Despite the progress made, this decision arises and is faced time and again. Everyone hopefully finds an answer that works for them. It is nevertheless a decision, and there is nevertheless a path not taken.

Although the character and story was not for me, this conversation is what I take away from this book.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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