In the summer of 1556, a man strolled into the village of Artigat in southern France claiming to be Martin Guerre, who had left town, abandoning his wife, Bertrande, eight years earlier. This has nothing to do with Allison Dickson's novel, but I like telling stories. Though some doubted this man’s identity, Bertrande accepted him home as her husband and they lived in apparent happiness for three years, having two children together. Eventually, suspicions about his real identity resulted in a trial. Bertrande, when asked to denounce this man as an imposter, refused.
It was only when the real Martin Guerre returned during the trial that the imposter confessed his deception and was hanged in front of the Guerre home. Some historians argue that Bertrande knew the imposter wasn’t her husband, but that the real Martin was a cold abusive dick, and she chose the imposter, eventually falling in love with him.
Stories of imposters and doubles--like Sidney Carton standing in for Charles Darnay in A Tale of Two Cities, and Sarah Manning taking over Beth Childs’ life in Orphan Black--have always intrigued me, so I was already on board with by Allison Dickson’s novel The Other Mrs. Miller the moment I saw the title. I won’t give any spoilers here, but let me say that while this is not the same kind of story, exactly, as the ones mentioned above, it absolutely digs deep into questions of identity and how much control we have over who we are.
Phoebe Miller is a bored housewife trying to escape the shadow of her rich, and recently outed as abusive, father. Her marriage is rocky. The years are passing with little to show for them other than empty wine bottles and an increasing desire to not leave the house. And then, almost all at once, a mysterious blue car begins showing up in her cul-de-sac, and a new family moves in across the street, and Phoebe finds herself with an opportunity for an affair with a much younger man.
With all this change, Phoebe feels alive for the first time in years. She’s going out. She’s enjoying sex. She’s not obsessing over the blue car anymore. Which is the first of her many mistakes.
The Other Mrs. Miller is a brave novel. Let me say that right off. The language is tight, and the story is fast-paced and engaging. The twists and betrayals are nuanced and tangled. And the whole mess is exquisitely dark. But it’s the confident ballsiness that Dickson displays by XXXXXXX (yup, no spoilers – other than to say the transition from Part 1 to Part 2 took guts as an author) that I really love.
Overall, this is a good book. It’s perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train and of Gillian Flynn’s novels. Dickson’s ability to play with voice is excellent. I highly recommend The Other Mrs. Miller for all thriller fans.
5 / 5 stars
Allison Dickson has been writing fiction for over the last decade, with genres ranging from horror (STRINGS) to dystopian (THE LAST SUPPER). But she eventually found a home with domestic thrillers with her major debut, THE OTHER MRS MILLER, which released from Putnam in 2019. Dickson lives in Dayton, Ohio, and when not writing, she is entertaining her many other obsessions, including gaming, cooking, and crochet.
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