Tragicomic Relief

A Boring Wife Settles the Score

By Megan Callahan

A review of A Boring Wife Settles the Score by Marie-Renée Lavoie

Published on July 8, 2021

What happens after the dust has settled? How do you rebuild a life that’s been destroyed? These are the questions that author Marie-Renée Lavoie explores, with fierce humour and compassion, in A Boring Wife Settles the Score, the sequel to her best-selling novel, Autopsy of a Boring Wife. While the first book in the series focused on the disintegration of a marriage, the second tackles the messy and arguably more difficult story of what comes after.

The tragicomic tale of main character Diane is once again skillfully translated from French by Arielle Aaronson, who introduced Lavoie’s Autopsy of a Boring Wife to English-speaking audiences. In this sequel, Diane is trying to get back on her feet. The wreckage of her marriage isn’t so far behind her, and her wounds haven’t quite healed. She’s coping with the insecurities and fears that inevitably arise on the heels of betrayal. But these don’t stop her from moving forward. She gets a new job, develops crushes, and forges unlikely friendships. Diane, who drinks too much wine and eats too much cassoulet, is incredibly silly and relatable, and she makes every page a delight to read. Her sharp observations and commentary had me giggling by the third page. I immediately loved her, the way you love a cool aunt who isn’t afraid to sing karaoke or dance with abandon.

A Boring Wife Settles the Score
Marie-Renée Lavoie
Translated by Arielle Aaronson

House of Anansi Press
$22.95
paper
312pp
9781487009373

A Boring Wife has many of the elements found in a good rom-com, including a sassy best friend and a number of potential love interests. Encouraged by fellow divorcée Claudine, Diane musters the courage to ease back into the dating pool. This leads to many awkward flirting attempts and hilarious blunders. Lavoie takes this opportunity to go deeper and examine the unique difficulties of dating after a certain age. As a woman on the cusp of fifty, Diane no longer fits the sexy-singleton mould. She has wrinkles, cellulite, and belly fat. One of the most piercing moments of the story is when she scrutinizes herself in the mirror and obsesses over her “flaws.” She sees herself as unattractive, “faded and out of place,” and blames herself for her “physical decline.”

These passages made me think of my own mother, who religiously dyes her greys and keeps a well-stocked cabinet of so-called anti-aging serums. In our youth-obsessed culture, older women are uncelebrated. We’re sold a story that crow’s feet and post-childbirth bodies are shameful and ugly. But Lavoie’s novel is hopeful, and Diane’s search for romance and a new “erotic identity” is ultimately rewarded.

One of my favourite threads in this story is Diane’s introduction to the world of teaching. After being offered a position at an elementary school – despite her inexperience and lack of qualifications – Diane is unceremoniously thrust into her new role. Chaos inevitably ensues as she learns to navigate her new reality: the teachers are overworked and burnt out; the school is desperately understaffed; the children have behavioural issues that their parents refuse or fail to address. Diane jumps right in, bonding with the kids and facing off with colleagues. The obstacles she faces make for great comedy material, but also take on new meaning in the context of the current pandemic, which has revealed just how underappreciated, overworked, and underpaid teachers are.

While fans of Lavoie’s Autopsy of a Boring Wife will surely be delighted by this much-anticipated sequel, A Boring Wife Settles the Score can easily stand on its own. Anyone who’s ever had to pick themselves up and start over is sure to recognize bits of themselves in Diane. Playful and sweet, but not without depth, it’s the perfect breezy summer read.mRb

Megan Callahan is a writer and translator from Montreal. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Room, Prism International, and Montréal Writes, and her book reviews are often featured on the website Québec Reads. Megan is currently working on her first short story collection.

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