April 19, 2012


by Andrew Kaufman
80 pages, Friday Project

Review by J. S. Colley

I had to go through a lot of trouble to buy this book. At the time, I wasn’t able to purchase it through Amazon.co.uk, so I had to go to The Book Depository website and buy the hardcover. When I received it in the mail, I have to admit that my first reaction was dismay at how “tiny” the book was. I was a little annoyed. I thought I was buying a full-length novel, not a novella. But, after reading it, I wonder if this wasn’t done on purpose. I “get” why it is so small—in length as well as physical size. Maybe it wasn’t intentional, but I prefer to think it was and, therefore, my irritation is diminished. (Please don’t excuse the pun.) And, now, when I see it among the 6x9’s on my bookshelf, it makes me smile.

The Tiny Wife begins as a flamboyant thief, wearing a purple-feathered hat, walks into a bank and demands the most sentimental object from each of his victims. After the robbery is complete, he claims he has taken 51% of their souls, and they must fight to get it back, or else they will die. An explanation is never given for what motivates the thief to interfere with their lives. He’s like a Bizarro World Robin Hood, stealing parts of souls to make them whole again.

While the thief reminded me of Robin Hood, the overall theme of the book reminded me of The Wizard of Oz. In that novel, everyone yearns for something they already have: intelligence, compassion, courage, the love of family. In The Tiny Wife, the characters are not living up to their potential, not facing their demons. Going through life with less than half their souls, even if they don’t realize it. The thief forces them to either sh*t or get off the pot. Find a way to get your soul back—or die.

The effect of the theft is different for each of the victims. I won’t go into a lot of detail but one manifestation is that a girl’s lion tattoo comes to life and chases her for days. And, of course, some of the victims never figure out how to get their souls back.

The heart of the novel is the story of the narrator—the husband of one of the victims. The object his wife gave the thief was a calculator. She had calculated every significant event of their lives with it—from the date of their child’s birth to the amount of their mortgage. They are having marital problems, he feeling he has to “carry” her, and she is feeling “diminished.”

One day, the wife discovers that she is shrinking in precise increments. Even without her calculator, she predicts how long it will take for her to disappear altogether. She keeps this to herself, but her husband and son watch as she gets tinier every day.

 At one point, the thief says to the husband:

“Perhaps one of the hardest things about having kids is realizing that you love them more than your wife. That it’s possible to love someone more than your wife. What’s worse is that it’s a love you don’t have to work for. It’s just there, indestructible, getting stronger and stronger. While the love of your wife, the one you do have to work at, and work so very hard at, gets nothing. Gets neglected, left to fend for itself. Like a houseplant forgotten on the windowsill.”

Ultimately, this novel is about a couple rekindling their love for one another, but the individual stories of each of the victims is a tiny parable all its own. 

The Tiny Wife is heartbreaking, heartwarming, thought provoking, and quirky. And worth the price.

And it seems I’ve written quite a lot for such a tiny book.

1 comment:

  1. Even though Amazon shows the title as Tiny Wife," the actual title is "The Tiny Wife."