The Knife Thrower’s Wife Foreword/Clarion Reviews
The Knife Thrower’s Wife is an intriguing tale about love gone wrong.
In Sheila McGraw’s energetic, polished mystery The Knife Thrower’s Wife, cracks begin to appear in a long marriage. Successful freelance illustrator Julia seems to live a charmed life in a beautiful home in the Houston suburbs. She loves her husband, Austin, though they have issues. She is quick to acquiesce to his demands; he won’t get on the same page with her about their two adult children moving back in with them, and he’s always distracted with work. Not far into the novel, there’s a dramatic shift toward a deepening mystery.
Julia narrates, beginning with the feverish dream sequence that gives the book its title. She’s strong and independent, and her toughness becomes more evident as the story unfolds. It is apparent during the many trials she’s put through in her nasty, devolving relationship with her husband, whose portrayal as a mean, even sinister, man is spot-on.
The book is realistic in its depiction of a family picking up the pieces of a marital implosion. Bryan and Sarah, the couple’s adult children, act as boomerang millennials; they wake up only to eat and party, and claim to be doing research to create a new app. Julia treads water with them, balancing her roles as a mother and landlord.
Famous painters are referenced throughout and emphasize Julia’s interest in art. She tries to capture the essence of some of her terrifying dreams on canvas as her battles bleed into her sleep. Aspects of her self-identity leak into humorous waking fantasy scenes as Julia slips into daydreaming about how she would react more assertively to people if she had no personal and social constraints.
With her marital problems, Julia is deprived of intimacy and she daydreams about kissing the twenty-something pool guy who’s called in to make a repair, though she ultimately reminds him to take his tools with him “in a motherly tone.” In conversations, characters’ south Texas mannerisms come out to entertaining effect.
Discussions with Julia’s next-door neighbor and a bohemian college friend who’s now a successful artist take place; they help Julia negotiate her life.
Visual lines show how Julia feels “tiny, hairy centipede feet of fear” and capture her house as a “domestic detention unit” in the eyes of a big city resident. Graphic language also plays in, befitting the book’s subject of infidelity and the passionate emotions it arouses.
Hi! I'm Sheila McGraw. Welcome, and thank you for visiting. I began my career toiling in the “sequin-mines” of advertising and fashion houses as an illustrator and copywriter. Then, in 1986, Firefly Books approached me to illustrate a little book titled, Love You Forever.
Welcome hyper-typers and paint-slingers to my blog about writing, illustrating, and publishing books for kids and adults; art, crafting, and whatever else tickles my fancy.