Women will do anything for love. That much is clear in Victoria Zackheim's revealing - and riveting - collection of female-authored essays in The Other Woman. The power behind Zackheim's collection is in the rich, multifaceted perspectives that can make us feel as sorry for the Other Woman (or at least pity her) as for the wife, though not - and perhaps this is the flaw of the book in not including essays by men - sorry for the philandering husband. There are bitter lessons in this book, too, for TOW....we learn TOW is a soul-destroying force, even when she doesn't "win." "Here's the thing about the other woman. She lives inside your head," Pam Houston writes in Not Istanbul. "She may live on the next street or in the next town or halfway around the world; she may be five-two or five-nine; she may be rail thin (never skinny) or voluptuous (never fat). But however big or small she is, however much space she takes up in the world, will never compare to the amount of space she'll take up in your brain."Zackheim, a novelist (The Bone Weaver) who teaches creative writing at UCLA, says she's never experienced the Other Woman or been one - but her cautionary tale, The Phantom Wife, could easily be about the Other Woman, the one who haunts us. The one who is, as Houston describes her, dangerous precisely because she is so ethereal: "She will never bleed or fart or hurl a Vlasic dill pickle jar across a sparkling American kitchen. ... She will remain his constant, excretionless muse."Zackheim's collection is both piercingly analytical - none of these women hides her faults or humiliations - and timely, arriving when we are apparently fixated on the Other Woman. Written by top writers, these modern tales from the marriage crypt are grippingly paced and rich with social analysis and insight. From Eustace: "Looking back, it's funny the things you notice just before your life is about to change: nothing." But if there is an overall cautionary note to these tales, it is this: Closing the book, one is left with an impression not of an affair's frisson, but rather of the utterly ordinary dreariness of deception.Clearly, the power of TOW lies not in her rarity, but, as Zackheim notes, in her power to make "us feel frumpy, old, stupid, and frigid." By that measure, readers will thank Zackheim for producing a collection that demystifies the Other Woman as surely as hearing what the authors describe as her whiny voice on the phone, or seeing her utterly ordinary visage in person.In the end, this book isn't about good or bad women, but women looking for love - and men only too happy to help.
Causes Victoria Zackheim Supports
Delancey Street Foundation Move-on Emily's List Susan G. Komen for the Cure Heifer International