SECOND WIFE, SECOND BEST?
Volume 12 Number 5
Glynnis Walker, a Toronto journalist with a master's degree in business administration, has written a book attempting to inform those "blissfully unaware" women who are to become second wives "what can await them on the other side of the altar." The author conducted her own research by soliciting responses to a questionnaire while appearing on television and radio talk shows across North America to discuss the problems of second wives. She argues that since the two hundred respondents to her questionnaire "randomly volunteered," a sample necessary to conduct valid scientific research was attained. In reality, the sample was skewed, and this bias is reflected in the findings that portray a group of bitter, unhappy women.
Walker admits to her own personal prejudice. She is, in fact, a second wife who has "grappled with all the problems that generally arise from a situation where a previously married man marries a single woman," yet cannot keep this out of her writing. She refers to first wives "sticking it" to their ex-husbands or "the legal system encourag(ing) women to "take their husband (sic) to the cleaners. . .'" She portrays the first wife as a shrew who exploits every opportunity to make her ex-husband and his new wife miserable.
This is not to suggest that the book has no merit. Its message is thought-provoking and, with the divorce rate approaching fifty per cent, relevant to today's society. Walker explores a variety of issues pertinent to the second wife: the relationship with ex-wife and children, the emotions a second wife may be feeling, and how to constructively cope. She also includes a chapter on sex and the second wife and discusses, among other topics, the subject of incest. An unlikely topic to include? Not really, since studies have shown that stepfathers are far more likely to victimize their stepchildren than natural fathers. Walker also reports on new trends in divorce such as divorce mediation and rehabilitative alimony and includes a variety of statistics and laws that cover not only the American scene, but the Canadian situation as well.
While the book was interesting and easy to read, thus making it suitable for the layperson, it would probably be most useful for a family studies or sociology course where the views espoused by the author of Second Wife, Second Best? could be tempered by other materials. Perhaps the plight of the divorced woman attempting to raise her children alone could also be studied so that a more complete picture of the situation is presented. Despite its obvious flaws, this book is recommended but with reservations.
Ruth Rausa, Toronto, ON.
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