(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In SWITCHEROO, Olivia Goldsmith, author of the best-selling THE FIRST WIVES CLUB (1992), revisits the theme of philandering husbands and vengeful wives, but this tale is marred by its implausibility and the decidedly nonfeminist desires of its main character, Sylvie, to woo back her cheating husband.

Forty-year-old Sylvie has a beautiful house in the suburbs, two nice children, a successful husband, and a pleasant little job teaching piano in her home. All she needs is a little romance. When she discovers that her husband, Bob, has been finding that romance with a younger woman, Marla, she tracks her down, only to discover a younger (and ditzy) version of herself. Sylvie concocts an elaborate plan to trade places with Marla: She will become the mistress, Marla the wife. In order to do so, the two women go to a spa, where Sylvie undergoes a program involving cosmetic surgery and weight loss to look ten years younger, and Marla puts on weight and adopts a frumpish hairstyle. Their switcheroo succeeds: Sylvie gets her husband back and Marla gets John, a family friend who once proposed to Sylvie. They both get what they want: husbands and life in the suburbs.

The story is beyond belief and its moral is distasteful. SWITCHEROO’s nonfeminist lesson is that a forty-something wife should try to preserve her marriage if she is comfortably situated and that romance and faithfulness can be hers if she makes herself look ten years younger.