The Other Woman by Sandie Jones is a mystery and psychological thriller that takes place in the UK in modern times. Our main character is Emily Havistock who is in her mid-twenties, works as a consultant with a recruitment agency, lives with her friend and roommate, Pippa, and has a gay best friend nicknamed Seb. She has a brother, sister-in-law and both parents; at the start of the book Emily has just finished a long, boring day of panels and group activities at a human resources conference her employer encouraged her to attend even though she didn’t really think she needed to and didn’t really want to. After the conference activities and events ended for the day, Emily is at a local pub trying to get the bartender’s attention so she can order a drink without much luck.
Suddenly, a man cuts in line at the bar, grabs the bartender’s attention, orders a drink for himself, apologizes to and smiles at Emily before walking off with his drink. Minutes later, as Emily finally gets the bartender’s attention to order a drink, he presents her with a glass of rosé courtesy of the handsome dude who had cut in line in front of her. After Emily attempts to hang around and have a conversation with the people she met during the panels and group activities at the conference, she walks away after one of the now drunk attendees begins to make inappropriate comments about her. Back at the front door to the pub and texting on her phone to make it look like she is waiting for someone to contact her so they can go someplace else, the gentleman who purchased her drink for her makes his way from the back of the pub to where Emily is standing. He introduces himself as Adam Banks and strikes up a conversation with Emily. They exchange phone numbers, but Emily doesn’t think that she’ll hear from him again anyway. One day the following week, Mr. Adam Banks calls Emily and invites her out to dinner with him which she accepts. They hit off and soon Emily and Adam are spending a majority of their free time with each other. Seb notices that Emily is spending more time with Adam and less time with him – she even sees a movie with Adam that she and Seb had agreed to see together when it first came out in movie theatres. Seb is clearly hurt that she went to see the movie with Adam, but Emily explains that Adam didn’t tell her the movie they were going to see before they went to the theatre and that she will make it up to Seb. Seb doesn’t exactly approve of Emily’s choice in boyfriend, but Emily is so happy with Adam that she starts spending more nights at his place.
As their relationship seems to intensify Adam invites Emily to meet his “mum”, Pamela or Pammie as she is called by most people who know her. She comes off as lukewarm or cool towards Emily, but puts on a good show of welcoming Emily into her home and family. Adam doesn’t seem to notice his mother’s cool demeanor towards Emily and doesn’t seem to notice her less than polite or kind treatment of Emily either. At dinner, Emily also meets Adam’s brother, who she didn’t even know about, James. She is surprised to meet him and learn of his existence all in the same day. As their relationship gets more serious, despite its brevity (they’ve only known each other a few months), Emily sees more of this weird relationship he has with his mother. It seems that Emily struggles within herself over her feelings about Adam for the entire book and she finds out that he’s keeping secrets from her. She also witnesses Adam’s quick temper and that he’s disrespectful, loud and inconsiderate when he’s drunk which seems to be often. He’s uncomfortable with her friendship with Seb and thinks that she should stop hanging out with him or being his friend or both.
“I hope she meets someone who will love her and Poppy the way I do. Who will care for her the way she cares for me.”Pammie, pg. 293
Over time, a short period of time, but time nonetheless Emily begins to wonder more about Adam’s past, his dead ex-girlfriend named Rebecca, his relationship with his brother and the weird one he has with his mother. As time goes on, Emily and Adam get somewhat closer and at his birthday party, he proposes to Emily and she accepts. At the news of their brand new engagement, Adam’s mom faints and has to be rushed to the hospital; Emily is glad that Pammie is not seriously hurt or ill, but she’s miffed that the day of her proposal will forever be linked with Pammie’s fainting. Despite her reservations about marrying Adam due to his mother, Emily moves forward with planning her wedding while simultaneously trying to figure out why Pammie hates her so much. The tension between Pammie and Emily causes serious problems in her relationship with Adam and they even get into arguments over it. A few weeks before their wedding day, Pammie informs them that she has been diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer and will need to undergo chemotherapy treatments.
Once Adam hears his mother’s news he decides it’s best if he and Emily postpone their wedding date until his mother is able to attend the wedding. Emily believes that Pammie is faking it to prevent her and Adam’s marriage and that Adam is jumping the gun since he doesn’t know how his mother will respond to the treatment. She’s infuriated, annoyed and hurt that she’s second place to his mom – still, but also because she believes Pammie is lying about the whole thing. She decides to set out to get evidence that either Pammie is telling the truth or lying; one day Adam asks her to go with him to his mother’s while he takes her to her appointment and Emily agrees thinking it’s the perfect opportunity for her to gather evidence. She is left at Pammie’s house while Adam takes her to the appointment and when they return, Emily finds out that Adam has never taken Pammie upstairs to where she is to receive treatment, but only drops her off at the entrance of the hospital at Pammie’s insistence. When Emily has the opportunity to escort Adam’s mother to her appointment alone due to a work commitment he can’t get out of, she seizes the opportunity to gather evidence of Pammie’s deceit.
“I just wish I had longer to live.”Pammie, pg. 294
The remainder of the novel is about Emily trying to figure out if Pammie is lying about her diagnosis and/or her chemotherapy treatments; trying to figure out what happened to Adam’s dead ex-girlfriend who died after moving in with Adam and three years of dating. She is trying to be patient with Adam’s major delay in rescheduling their wedding date and she’s working hard to juggle her responsibilities (this is cryptic or nonspecific on purpose because I don’t want to spoil the book). The ending of the book is kind of shocking and I would even say suspenseful – I wasn’t expecting a small fight or struggle between Adam and Emily. The ending or epilogue is quite beautifully written and I can say it’s probably my favorite part of the entire book. Surprisingly, I didn’t have a favorite character in this book; my least favorite character is, easily, Adam because he’s thoughtless, selfish and controlling. Definitely not the kind of guy I’d want to marry and spend the remainder of my life with. I would recommend this book to any reader who enjoys mysteries and/or thrillers (even though I think it’s more a mystery than a thriller); I purchased the book on a whim, when it was on sale, while doing some shopping at Target. I thought it was going to be a funny book about a son’s mother’s poor relationship with the woman he’s dating, but it was nothing like that at all. I’m not sure if you’ll find a copy at your local library, but it doesn’t hurt to check their catalog if you’d rather read the book before you purchase. For those who would rather purchase their own copy for whatever reason, Barnes and Noble is selling paperbacks for $16.99 ($14.99 for B&N Members!).
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