Do you like women’s fiction with suspense? Then come see what I thought of this April 2022 release. Check out my Review of The Younger Wife! If you read an Advance Reader Copy and are wondering about the change in the ending of The Younger Wife, or if you read reviews (like mine) that referred to an unresolved ending, I have answers, marked with spoiler warnings, at the very end!
This was my first Sally Hepworth book, so I was curious to see what I thought!
To be published on April 5, 2022 by St Martin’s Press. Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review. This post contains affiliate links.
What is the Younger Wife About?
A heart surgeon at the top of his field, Stephen Aston is getting married again. But first he must divorce his current wife, even though she can no longer speak for herself.
Tully and Rachel look upon their father’s fiancée, Heather, as nothing but an interloper. Heather is younger than both of them. Clearly, she’s after their father’s money.
THE FORMER WIFE
With their mother in a precarious position, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the truth about their family’s secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is.
THE YOUNGER WIFE
Heather has secrets of her own. Will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous impulses in all of them?
Review of The Younger Wife
Sally Hepworth isn’t an author I’ve read before. I’d say that The Younger Wife feels firmly in the Liane Moriarty lane: female-forward, multiple characters, strong family dynamics, and a hint of suspense. This is NOT really a domestic thriller, though, if that’s what you’re looking for.
It’s a tale as old as time: an older guy with kids decides to marry a much-younger woman, scandalizing his family. His daughters, who are older than the new fiancee, are horrified.
What I did like about The Younger Wife:
I found The Younger Wife enjoyable to read!
I really liked the sister relationship between Tully and Rachel, and thought that each of them was a well-crafted character with well-developed issues that tied in to the whole story.
The Younger Wife definitely had some surprises in store, which I appreciated a lot. As I said above, this could have been a very stereotypical “mean stepmother” story, but there’s a lot more to it than that!
What I liked less about The Younger Wife:
The ending wasn’t completely resolved. If you like a really firm ending, with all the answers, this might not be for you. There were a few plot points that seemed to sort of be left dangling. Though lately, this is common in women’s fiction and thrillers. It is a trend I don’t love. At all!
Though the book tried to raise some body image/misogyny/abuse issues (I won’t be specific because one is a semi-spoiler) I sometimes felt uncomfortable at some characters’ lack of acknowledgment that they WERE issues. If such issues are going to be raised, I feel that needs to be done thoughtfully and fully.
EDITED TO ADD: When I heard from another blogger that finished copy had a slightly different ending from the one in the advance reader copy I read, an ending that addressed some of my concerns, I had to know more!
New Ending for the Finished Copy of The Younger Wife
PLEASE don’t read further if you don’t want SPOILERS for the ending of The Younger Wife!
So the story of the changes to the ending of The Younger Wife is as twisty as the book itself.
It seems like US version of The Younger Wife had at least two different endings in Advance Reader Copies (ARCs). ARCs are are given to reviewers and librarians before the book is officially released, and ARCs generally state that changes could be made to the finished copy.
In this case, YES: the US finished copy of The Younger Wife had a different ending.
Thanks to commenter Sarah (*waves to you Down Under*) who pointed out that there were similar changes made between published Australian version of The Younger Wife and the e-book version.
What are the Different Endings of The Younger Wife in these different versions?
According to a US-based blogger I emailed with, the earliest US advance reader copies of The Younger Wife had a significantly different ending.
In these earlier US advance copies (which I think may have been paper ARCs, but if you can clear this up, let me know) it seems like the book doesn’t really take a stand on whether (BIG SPOILER) Stephen, the thrice-married successful doctor who seems like a great catch, is actually a man who physically abuses his wives and daughters and then gaslights them into thinking they are just clumsy or imagining things.
This lack of denouncement of Stephen’s behavior in the book was understandably upsetting to readers, who felt that the book should somehow make clear that these five women WERE being abused and gaslit. (I didn’t read this earliest ARC version.)
In my US electronic ARC (advance reader copy), Stephen’s abuse is more acknowledged.
In the epilogue, there is a flashback of Pam finding a stash of money that her mother (Tully and Rachel’s grandma) hid in a hot water bottle. Pam considers using the money for a relaxing trip, as she’s in pain from all her “falls.” Thanks to Stephen’s third wife, Heather, the reader realizes these “accidents” were most certainly caused by Stephen.
Pam recalls that Diana, one of her book club ladies, asked her: “Do you find that you are more likely to injure yourself when Stephen is around?” Pam is highly offended and brushes this question aside at the time, but now remembers that Stephen’s ex-wife, Fiona, also said something interesting, that Stephen “wasn’t who Pam thinks he is.”
Although this is definitely an improvement on what I was told the earlier ARCs contained, some readers felt the book was still tiptoeing around the idea that these women suffered terrible physical and emotional abuse.
The Final (we think) version of the ending of The Younger Wife
In the US finished copy, the epilogue has a couple of added paragraphs. In one, Pam thinks about Diana’s comment at book club and (CHANGE #1) agrees that YES, in fact, she is 100% more likely to injure herself if Stephen is around.
Pam also recalls one time when Stephen choked her and then denied it ever happened. Then (CHANGE #2) she wonders if Fiona’s comment meant that Stephen also abused and gaslit Fiona. (Probably!)
In all versions, Pam resolves to talk to Fiona about her comment, and writes herself a note to remember. But Pam has dementia, likely caused by Stephen’s abuse.
Not surprisingly, Stephen also abuses and gaslights his third (younger) wife, Heather, who does acknowledge his abuse.
Sarah (the Australian reader mentioned above) confirmed that the Australian published version (the first printing, at least) has the ending where Pamela absolutely refutes that Stephen ever harmed or gaslit her.
And Sarah says the e-book she read has the same ending as the US finished/published copy.
I was happy to see these changes to The Younger Wife and glad that, dementia or not, the author took away Pam’s hesitation at calling her “accidents” abuse and had Pam acknowledge to the reader that YES, Stephen was definitely an abuser and gaslighter.
I understand that maybe Pam’s lightbulb moment had to wait until the end because poor Pam can no longer speak up for herself.
And we can hope that even if Pam wasn’t able to stop Stephen, that Heather, Tully and Rachel will somehow speak up and set the record straight. (Another BIG SPOILER: Stephen isn’t alive at the end of the story to face justice.)
But as the story ends, the reader doesn’t know for sure that it will ever be acknowledged publicly what Stephen did to Pamela, his daughters, Rachel, and possibly his first wife Fiona.
If you’ve read this one, please talk to me in comments. Spoilers are fine if you mark them, so that those who haven’t finished the book can avoid them!