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The Mere Wife


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New York Times bestselling author Maria Dahvana Headley's fierce, feminist retelling of the classic tale of Beowulf.

About the Author

Maria Dahvana Headley is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and editor, most recently of the novels Magonia, Aerie, and Queen of Kings and the memoir The Year of Yes. With Kat Howard she is the co-author of The End of the Sentence, and with Neil Gaiman she is the coeditor of Unnatural Creatures. Her short stories have been shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, and her work has been supported by the MacDowell Colony and by Arte Studio Ginestrelle, where the first draft of this book was written. She was raised with a wolf and a pack of sled dogs in the high desert of rural Idaho and now lives in Brooklyn.


Praise for Maria Dahvana Headley: `Maria Dahvana Headley is a firecracker: she's whip-smart with a heart, and she writes like a dream.' -Neil Gaiman `Headley's jabs at suburban smugness are fun ... [and her] prose can be stark, lacerating, insightful ... The role reversals Headley devises - and the way she adapts an ancient tale into a 21st-century struggle between haves and have-nots, brown-skinned and white, damaged and intact - are largely effective.' -Michael Upchurch, The New York Times Book Review `A sly satire of suburbia, wittily detailed and narratively bold ... with its roots in ancient legend [The Mere Wife] proves especially relevant in this time of heightened fear of the Other.' -Michael Berry, San Francisco Chronicle `Maria Dahvana Headley translates the excesses of contemporary life into the gloriously mythic. This is not just an old story in new clothes: this is a consciousness-altering mindtrip of a book.' -Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble `Maria Dahvana Headley is a gift, a genius, and an absolute wonder; I would follow her anywhere.' -Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties `With a sharp eye and a deft flourish, Maria Dahvana Headley reimagines one of our oldest stories to give us a chilling, elemental vision of our latest selves. The Mere Wife is a bold, stunning riptide of a book.' -Tea Obreht, author of The Tiger's Wife `[The Mere Wife] is a stunner: a darkly electric reinterpretation of Beowulf that upends its Old English framework to comment on the nature of heroes and how we "other" those different from ourselves ... told with sharp poetic imagery and mythic fervour, Headley's novel prompts examination of how people create or become monsters.' STARRED REVIEW -Booklist `There's not a false note in this retelling, which does the Beowulf poet and his spear-Danes proud.' STARRED REVIEW -Kirkus `Maria Dahvana Headley writes - with crackling headlong sentences that range among old plots and news observations - about a world that earlier today seemed too familiar. Master storyteller, brilliant stylist, a writer with this sort of command of language is a delight to read. Here's a book to call up an old story in the newest possible way.' -Samuel R. Delany, author of Dhalgren and Dark Reflections `The Mere Wife [is] an intense, visceral reading experience ... [the book is] a revisioning of Beowulf, and Maria finds the bones, the sharp edges, the bleeding heart of that story, and tells it against a modern context.' -Kat Howard, author of An Unkindness of Magicians `So: I loved The Mere Wife and I bet lots of other people will too ... Everyone should read The Mere Wife. It's a wonderfully unexpected dark/funny/lyrical/angry retelling of Beowulf; what's not to like?' -Emily Wilson, translator of The Odyssey `[A] smart, tough modern flip of Beowulf.'- Margaret E. Atwood `Headley applies the broad contours of the Beowulf story to her tale but skilfully seeds her novel with reflections on anxieties and neuroses that speak to the concerns of modern parenting. Her narrative leaps between grisly incidents of violence and touching moments of motherly love that turn her tale's source material inside out and situate it in a recognisable modern landscape where ... "the world isn't large enough for monsters and heroes at once".' -Publishers Weekly `[The Mere Wife] is the story of the fierceness of a mother's love, delivered with a full-throated feminist roar, a highly literary sensibility, and characters who straddle the line between reality and fantasy ... It rings with musicality ... [Headley's] prose takes no prisoners, and her musings on myth and magic and feminism hit like a welcome punch to the face. Read The Mere Wife, and look forward to her forthcoming translation of Beowulf, which will further shift our understanding of what makes a monster, a hero, a woman.' -Ardi Alspach, B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog `A rich, full narrative.' -Nikki Jones, Good Reading `The Mere Wife is an astonishing reinterpretation of Beowulf: Beowulf in suburbia - epic, operatic, and razor-sharp, a story not of a thick-thewed thegn, but of women at war, as wives and warriors, mothers and matriarchs. Their chosen weapons are as likely to be swords as public relations and they wield both fearlessly. They rule, they fight.' -Nicola Griffith, author of Hild `The Mere Wife is a work of magic. A wild adventure, a celebration of monsters, myths, and the power of mother-love. Imagine a writer so bold, so ambitious, so about it that she challenges Beowulf to arm wrestle. That writer is Maria Dahvana Headley and let me tell you something, she is here to win.' -Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling `Her [Headley's] modern-day reimagining of Beowulf is the most surprising novel I've read this year ... Headley is the most fearsome warrior here, lunging and pivoting between ancient and modern realms, skewering class prejudices, defending the helpless and venturing into the dark crevices of our shameful fears. Someday The Mere Wife may take its place alongside such feminist classics as The Wide Sargasso Sea because in its own wicked and wickedly funny way it's just as insightful about how we make and kill our monsters.' -Ron Charles, The Washington Post `Imagine the centaur-like hybrid of a Middle Ages warrior saga and a slow-burning drama of domestic ennui and you begin to get a sense of this spiky, arresting story ... the novel plays ingeniously with its ancient source.' - The Wall Street Journal `Her dystopian novel, The Mere Wife, takes the Old-English epic Beowulf and plunges it into the suburban malaise of Donald Trump's America.' - The Saturday Age `The Mere Wife shows war from a mother's perspective; the tragedy of all-encompassing love in a world that inevitably destroys ... By centring on the mother's perspective, Headley tells one of Western literature's classic tales differently and proves that feminist revisionist writing is essential reading in a changing world.' -Weekend Australian 'So: I loved The Mere Wife and I bet lots of other people will too ... Everyone should read The Mere Wife. It's a wonderfully unexpected dark/funny/lyrical/angry retelling of Beowulf; what's not to like?' -Emily Wilson, translator of The Odyssey '[T]his book! Oh, this book! It's brutal and beautiful and unflinching.' -Justina Ireland, author of Feral Youth `Maria Dahvana Headley's new novel, The Mere Wife, is much more than a simple recasting of the ancient epic poem Beowulf in the suburbs. It's The Stepford Wives, 9/11 and English class thrown into a lyrical blender, and it's kind of glorious.' - Associated Press `Headley's divergences and additions, descriptions of glittering scenery and bloody battles, keep us entranced as those who once gathered round the fire to hear of heroic deeds and shudder at the monsters among us.' -Kathleen Alcala, The Cascadia Subduction Zone `[A] great, heart-wrenching read ... I love a book that wrestles me, and makes me think about it after I've finished it. If you enjoy battling monsters, I can't recommend this book enough.' -Tor.com `Bestselling author Maria Dahvana Headley takes a significant gamble in recasting Old English epic Beowulf in the American suburbs - but the gamble pays off. She enhances the themes of the classic with contemporary and feminist accents, creating a work that is both unique and worthy.' -Christian Science Monitor's '10 Best Books of July' `Headley's language is exquisite and imaginative, the contemporary adaptation on-point and thought provoking - essentially, this is how to retell a classic.' -Refinery29's 'The Best New Books Out This July' `The lives of two protective mothers in American suburbia collide in [this] fascinating contemporary retelling of Beowulf.' -Entertainment Weekly `Headley (whose own translation [of Beowulf] comes out next year) brings the story of the hero, the monster, and the monster's mother into contemporary times with uncommon vigor and depth.' -Boris Kachka, Vulture `The Mere Wife goes beyond Beowulf to become a narrative that offers a bold look at American suburbia while exploring the power of women in society.' -Gabino Iglesias, The Rumpus `[A] poetic, transcendental stunner of a novel! Maria Dahvana Headley's electric storytelling weaves a dark exploration of how everyone has the potential to become or create monsters. A nuanced allegory for US politics, The Mere Wife reveals truths about our world through a dystopian suburbia ... Headley is a master storyteller with razor-sharp observations ... one of my favourite reads of 2018 so far.' -Mischa Parkee, Bookseller at Better Read Than Dead `Best-selling American author/editor Maria Dahvana Headley spins the ancient story of monsters and dragons around a gated community populated by the beautiful and entitled ... this is more than an old story in new clothes.' - North and South

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