Waiting on Wednesday: ‘The Mere Wife’ by Maria Dahvana Headley

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly series hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming book releases we can’t wait to get our hands on.

This week’s Waiting on Wednesday pick is a modern retelling of Beowulf set in an American suburb: The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley.

There are no literal monsters in this contemporary re-imagining of the epic Old English poem, but early reviewers are already praising the book’s lyrical prose.

We’re also very much here for the way the reinterpretation explores war, women’s roles in society, the patriarchy and racism in America.

The Mere Wife hits shelves everywhere on July 17, 2018.

New York Times bestselling author Maria Dahvana Headley presents a modern retelling of the literary classic Beowulf, set in American suburbia as two mothers―a housewife and a battle-hardened veteran―fight to protect those they love in The Mere Wife.

From the perspective of those who live in Herot Hall, the suburb is a paradise. Picket fences divide buildings―high and gabled―and the community is entirely self-sustaining. Each house has its own fireplace, each fireplace is fitted with a container of lighter fluid, and outside―in lawns and on playgrounds―wildflowers seed themselves in neat rows. But for those who live surreptitiously along Herot Hall’s periphery, the subdivision is a fortress guarded by an intense network of gates, surveillance cameras, and motion-activated lights.

For Willa, the wife of Roger Herot (heir of Herot Hall), life moves at a charmingly slow pace. She flits between mommy groups, playdates, cocktail hour, and dinner parties, always with her son, Dylan, in tow. Meanwhile, in a cave in the mountains just beyond the limits of Herot Hall lives Gren, short for Grendel, as well as his mother, Dana, a former soldier who gave birth as if by chance. Dana didn’t want Gren, didn’t plan Gren, and doesn’t know how she got Gren, but when she returned from war, there he was. When Gren, unaware of the borders erected to keep him at bay, ventures into Herot Hall and runs off with Dylan, Dana’s and Willa’s worlds collide.

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