The Other Woman

The narrator and her husband Charles are thirty-something African Americans who live in Los Angeles. Their upwardly mobile lifestyle is bought at the price of the horrendous daily highway commutes and high housing costs of the area. She works late evenings in a frenetic news show environment. He works days as a middle-school history teacher, where he struggles to be a role model for fatherless kids. The two hardly see each other except in bed.

Four years of this pace have taken a toll on their relationship. Charles falls into an affair with a colleague, as much through loneliness as lust. His wife suspects nothing for eight months, until David Lawrence, a seemingly “wacko” caller to the station, turns out to be the angry husband of Charles’s lover. Faced with the evidence of betrayal, the journalist almost falls apart.

A collage of raw pain, interrogation, self-blame, and crazy-making gestures follows. Charles says it’s over, but he won’t answer the questions that she feels entitled to ask. E-mails and instant messages between the lovers come to light—some mundane, but many so full of longing and intimacy that reading them can feel like an invasion of privacy to the reader. The narrator feels no such qualms, even though the e-mails bring her more pain. Events cascade into a spiral of more revelations and unpredictable violence.

Eric Jerome Dickey is a brilliant writer, and in writing The Other Woman he set himself several challenges. Readers never learn the main character’s name; only her nickname “Freckles.” It is the author’s first book to tell a story entirely in a woman’s point of view and voice, or wholly in the present tense. All these efforts work together seamlessly in the book. Even the many vivid passages on desire and fulfillment are convincing enough as a woman’s perspective for the story’s purposes. There is a lot of graphically described sex in the book. It is a measure of the author’s achievement that he can use it so well to illuminate the mysteries of love, betrayal, and forgotten dreams.