A deliciously satirical postmodern romance, Seven Wives reimagines the search for an enduring passionate love. The too-much-loved narrator, Jack, an extension of the everyman hero of Baumbach's novel Reruns marries seven women, including a childhood sweetheart, an older woman who turns out to be an unacceptably near relation, the loveliest woman in the world, a woman so fat that sex with her becomes impossibly difficult, and a woman who confuses violence and love. Jack's quest for the perfect marriage is, of course, doomed to failure and ultimately leads him to the edge of madness, but it also produces seven bizarrely interesting near-misses along the way.
From his home in New York City, Jack tells his story after the fact, as a way of reclaiming himself. He obsesses not only about his search for the right woman but also about his quixotic pursuit of a version (or versions) of the American dream. Jack moves from cabdriver, to actor, to scriptwriter for pornographic movies, to entrepreneur, to Hollywood producer. Seven Wives treats marriage and career as inseparable pursuits on the same road to success. The two abiding issues of all of Baumbach's fiction—the erratic workings of the imagination and the even more erratic workings of the human heart—appear in their purest form in his latest novel.
"...fraught with...charged moments that the narrative threatens to explode." —The New York Times Book Review
"If the mind were to dwell for too long on the ambivalence of love and relationships, one could end up inhabiting the nightmare world of Baumbach's latest novel. Here, the libido is as dangerous as crack, and nothing that anyone says can be believed. Baumbach's protagonist is Jack, husband to the "seven wives" of the title, and the plot turns on all the love skeletons he has in his closet. Baumbach (Chez Charlotte and Emily, LJ 11/1/79) makes matters worse for him by painting the kinds of watery backdrops one finds in mandarin metafiction, e.g., cleverness-for-its-own-sake stuff. This is the opposite of historical fiction; Baumbach just grabs pieces of reality out of the pedestrian consciousness. His style lends itself well to settings of paranoid American noir, a miasma of sunglasses, pistols, and deadpan. For readers who enjoy that ilk, Baumbach delivers a nice, dark magic show." —Brian Geary, Library Journal
I have survived a series of unlikely attempts on my life. Someone out there - person or persons unknown - wants me erased. That's all I will say at this point without one of my former therapists in the room to validate my sanity. As to the presumptive assailant, I have several candidates in mind with unassailable credentials, more than a few theories, a steamer trunk full of suspicions. This is the way I went about my investigation: I wrote down on a legal pad all the people I had wronged (whose names I could still remember) and under that all the people who had wronged me (and who probably blamed me for their unspeakable behavior), a combined list that extended itself into the hundreds. I am an abrasive personality, though secretly soft-hearted. My second list, which was shorter, was comprised of acquaintances who imaged themselves wronged by me. These as a group were the least stable, the most likely to pursue vengeance years after the presumed offense. Then I accounted those for whom grievance was a way of life, people who couldn't cross the street without feeling disrespected by some passing car. Not to be omitted from consideration were former wives, all of whom fit into one or another of the categories. And then there were the women that I didn't marry, the ones who wanted (or said they wanted) greater intimacy, and the ones who wanted mostly to be left alone, and the ones who seemed to want both greater intimacy and to be left alone, women who thrived on the frission of ambiguity. Of course there is always the possibility of circumstantial enmity, displaced vindictiveness. Whenever possible, I try to stay clear of the incomprehensible. Down that road lies madness.