Psychology student Lizzie Epstein is having an affair with her superior, Dr. Benjamin Strauss, when amnesiac "Wendy Doe" becomes a patient at Meadowlark Institute for Memory Research. Years later, Wendy's daughter Alice visits Lizzie— who is mourning the death of Strauss, who had become her spouse—in an effort to understand why her mother has disappeared.
The polyphonic narrative structure feels suitable for a novel that draws heavily on musical composition, particularly Bach’s fugues, which Wasserman adeptly uses to illustrate the tractile nature of memory. And though the middle of the book requires some patience, there are plenty of philosophical threads to tease out and ponder along the way ... The lives of the four narrators—Lizzie, Wendy, Alice and Elizabeth—intersect to reveal one big, satisfying secret ... Wasserman’s ability to weave big ideas seamlessly into plot is impressive. The result is a warning against the dangers of letting others warp our identities while remaining cleareyed about the importance and inescapability of human connection ... Wasserman...leaves readers with the feeling that erosion of self is a fate worth fearing.
The complex multiple point of view characters are tied together through themes and intersecting timelines ... This is an unexpected novel, full of philosophical questions about how we become who we are, what it takes to become someone else, and how much power others hold over even our own understandings of self. Mother Daughter Widow Wife is not an easy read, but it’s a compelling one.
...a propulsive, psychologically driven novel ... In Lizzie and Alice, we get different variations of the same journey, but neither woman is exactly relatable or endearing. Wasserman keeps them at arm’s length to let them define themselves, a choice that is equal parts successful and frustrating, as it is difficult to get through a novel with no one to really root for ... This is an incredibly stimulating and brainy novel, but it is also compassionate and compelling, even when the plot gets a little ahead of itself ... This is a carefully plotted and well-constructed novel—written in a tone that feels provocative and wicked.