The Wife Tree by Dorothy SpeakThe Wife Tree by Dorothy Speak

The Wife Tree

byDorothy Speak

Paperback | February 12, 2002

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Morgan Hazzard is caught late in life between a cold husband and the self-righteous opinions of her grown children. Forty years of marriage to a hard, prairie-bred man have frozen her into the semblance of a meek and steadfast wife. But when a stroke silences William, Morgan's feelings begin to thaw. A quietly courageous woman emerges and starts to learn — on the eve of her seventy-fifth birthday — her own surprising strength and capacity for joy and change.

Morgan’s miserable marriage was not the beginning of her hardships. Life on the farm where she grew up was harsh. To her indifferent mother, she was just another mouth to feed. At sixteen, she was raped by an older brother who silenced her with threats; she was sent away to a convent to have and then give up the child. Two of her sons died very young. Her irascible husband, who himself was scarred by childhood horrors, derided her lack of interest in politics and wars, called her stupid, and crushed her confidence. Her six daughters, now living in other countries, criticize her for weakness, for her dislike of modernization and technology, without attempting to understand her. Morgan Hazzard is tired of being underestimated.

Suddenly freed from William’s influence by the stroke, which leaves him helpless and mute, she begins to act as she wants. She defies her bridge-playing friends and thwarts the money-grabbing plans of her son. She begins to live life consciously for the first time, reassessing her place in the world. At leisure to observe her surroundings, she sees the landscape afresh, in spite of failing eyesight. In a narrative woven together from diary entries, dreams, unsent letters to her girls, and the recollections she forces on William, an unexpected journey of self-discovery unfolds. An unlikely heroine, Morgan feels like “a lone explorer in an undiscovered land” as she faces the world without William, but her sense of humour and new-found self-worth sustain her. After years of enforced silence she is finding her own voice again. Finally putting aside the needs of her family and making peace with her past, Morgan learns to love herself, which seems a hopeful start. In this extraordinary but triumphant coming-of-age story, Morgan finds peace and self-reliance in her old age as she contemplates her future.

When The Wife Tree was published, the Ottawa Citizen said, “[Speak] creates Morgan as a complicated woman, at seventy-four still unsure of herself, still learning and yearning.” Speak is the author of two books of acclaimed short stories, and The Wife Tree, her much-anticipated first novel, has been compared to Carol Shields’ The Stone Diaries and Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel. Speak shares with them an interest in depicting real, recognizable people whose lives are less mundane than they first appear; a characteristic also of the work of Alice Munro. The Calgary Herald said: “Dorothy Speak has the remarkable ability to create mature female characters with whom we can readily empathize, and to translate the unspoken into language honestly, wisely and with insightful wit.”
Dorothy Speak was born in Seaforth near Lake Huron and grew up in the small southern Ontario city of Woodstock. She has taught art history and creative writing, and was Curator of Inuit Art at the Glenbow Museum in the eighties. She has published two acclaimed short story collections, The Counsel of the Moon in 1990 and Object of Your ...

interview with the author

1) Can you tell us how you became a writer?

The idea to become a writer didn’t occur to me until I was in my mid-teens.  I didn’t, however, do much about it before my twenties.  I think there are a number of reasons for this.  Books weren’t a big part of my childhood.  We didn’t have books in our home — we simply didn’t have the financial means.  I rarely saw my parents reading.  They were too busy providing for a large family. The only books I remember in the house were the Bobsey Twins, and Pinocchio (a book that terrified me).  I did of course go to the library, but without someone to guide me to the good titles, I’m afraid I brought home a lot of junk — war thrillers and romances.  I missed out on all the childhood greats — the Narnia series, for instance, Alice in Wonderland, A.A. Milne, etc., and only came across these when I had children.  However, English was always my strongest subject — literature was what deeply moved me.  As an English major at university, I was obliged to study all the dead white males.  Needless to say, I had difficulty relating to these authors, both from a cultural and a gender point of view.  It wasn’t until my Masters year, when there was finally a Canadian Literature course on the curriculum (this was 1974!) that I encountered the work of Alice Munro.  Hers were characters and a territory I recognized immediately.  Like Munro, my mother came from Huron Country.  This connection has always seemed significant to me.  There was something about the texture, the tone, the space in Munro’s stories that I found familiar.  It wasn’t until I read her work that I started to understand that I might have something valid to write about–the ordinary lives of small-town Canadian women.  It was no doubt because of my enthrallment with Munro that I tackled the short story form.  A few years after graduating from university, I began to work with various authors teaching writing: W.P. Kinsella, Jack Hodgins, W.O. Mitchell, Alistair MacLeod, Guy Vanderhaege, Graeme Gibson.  With their encouragement, I persisted and went on to publish.

2) What inspired you to write this particular book? Is there a story about the writing of this novel that begs to be told?

It was the final years of my mother’s life that inspired me to write The Wife Tree.  After my father died, she lived alone in the small town of Woodstock, where I grew up.  Eventually, her eyesight was destroyed, like Morgan Hazzard’s was, by macular degeneration.  This left her isolated, vulnerable and depressed.  I think perhaps the loneliness I saw her experience at this time drove me more than anything to look at the life of an abandoned elderly woman.  I decided to write the story of a Catholic of my mother’s generation (she was born in 1912) who’d devoted her life to raising a large family, only to find herself frighteningly alone in the end, with a husband with whom she had little in common.  I chose to focus the antipathy between William and Morgan on the struggle between prairie and Ontario — something I sensed in our own home.  Born in Saskatchewan, my father longed all his life to return to the West.  My mother, however, wanted to stay in the city, in Ontario.  Into this story, I fit small bits and pieces from my mother’s past, which I’d mentally catalogued over the years — the fact, for instance, that she’d worked as a private nurse to an Italian woman in London, Ontario.  The circumstances of my father’s death were also important to me.  I was interested in the devastating effects of stroke, the physical and mental decline and the decisions family members have to make when the patient’s life becomes less and less sustainable.  The biggest surprise for me were Morgan’s letters. When I began writing the novel, I didn’t know that she was going to compose letters to her children.  But near the beginning, Merilee tells Morgan she must write to the distant sisters.  So I worked on one brief letter and then another, and suddenly Morgan’s true voice, her deepest feelings began to pour out in this correspondence.  I started to see that the letters were going to be the medium through which I would grow to truly understand Morgan.  They were an exciting part of the book to write. This is often the way.  It’s the author’s unexpected discoveries that make writing thrilling and well worth the struggle. 
3) What is the major theme in this book? Who is your favourite character in this book, and why?

Certainly, for me, motherhood is the strongest force in the book.  After that, selfhood.  I would say that the discovery that finally liberates Morgan from her loneliness comes when’s she’s speaking to the female officer at the police station on Boxing Day:  “One doesn’t need love so very much once one learns to value the self.”  This is what gives Morgan strength at the end of the book, in the absence of children, husband, church, friends:  accepting, embracing, loving the self.  Too often we allow others to tell us what we’re worth.

4) Are there any tips you would give a book club to better navigate their discussion of your book?

I think one of the most important things to bear in mind in reading The Wife Tree is that Morgan is human.  Society places such unrealistic demands and expectations on mothers that few of us can live up to the ideal.  Throughout the novel, Morgan is brutally honest with herself — she readily admits her small failures as a mother, especially with respect to Morris, and berates herself for her imperfections.  This seems to make some readers judge her harshly. If we stop and think of the causes and circumstances surrounding her shortcomings, we will understand, for instance, why she doesn’t go out to the hallway to thaw Morris’s frozen fingers when, as a child, he comes in from the cold after delivering his newspapers.

5) What question are you never asked in interviews, but are desperate to answer?

One of the things that surprised me most, among reactions to the novel, was the fact that almost nobody talked about the passage where Morgan falls in love with the Indian doctor (December 16).  This is my favourite part of the book, a section that I polished and polished and that I like to read over because of its sense of setting, its strong physicality.  It represents the happiest time in Morgan’s life, a period when she’s loved at face value (though it ends unhappily) and I’m curious as to why it’s not remarked upon more often.

6) Has a review or profile ever changed your perspective on your work?

I do listen to reviewers and take their criticisms seriously.  These are, after all, people who read a great deal and are skilled at analyzing books.  However, one must be careful to recognize that many reviewers read too quickly, don’t have the time to “listen” to books and are pressured to critique them within a brief time frame.

If there’s any one evaluation of The Wife Tree that disturbed me and gave me pause for thought, it’s the suggestion that the novel was too tough, too hard-nosed, too much like real life and that Morgan was unlikable.  Does the novelist have an obligation to manipulate her/his material so that the reader is at first intrigued, then entertained and, finally, satisfied?  (Certainly this is what young authors are taught in writing school.)  Or does the writer have an even greater responsibility to present life in such an honest way that the reader may be disturbed?  This is a constant struggle for me at this point in my development as a writer.  Where does my responsibility lie?  To myself or to the publishing industry?  An agent who read the manuscript of The Wife Tree before it was published said something like this (I paraphrase): “The only sustaining moments for Morgan are the small kindnesses of strangers.  She is betrayed by her marriage, by the medical profession, by her children, her bridge-playing friends and the church.  These may not be messages the reader wants to hear.”

7) Which authors have been most influential to your own writing?

Alice Munro has been, as I’ve said, the most powerful influence on my work.  Other authors I read enthusiastically at the beginning of my career were Mavis Gallant and the American writer, Elizabeth Spencer, who lived and worked in Montreal for many years.  They are all practitioners of the short story.  They write about women, often from the first person point of view.  They get deep into the feelings of their characters.  This is my ultimate objective: to understand my characters so thoroughly that the reader is deeply moved by their “testimonial.”  It’s a process that takes a lot of digging.

Having said that, the two people who influenced my writing most, are my parents.  There is something about the way their lives unfolded that I find deeply tragic, and this is the wellspring, the emotional landscape, from which I write.

8) If you weren’t writing, what would you want to be doing for a living? What are some of your other passions in life?

If I weren’t writing, I suppose I’d be a filmmaker.  I go to films a lot — foreign films and anything of value that Hollywood produces (though usually the pickings are slim).  Seeing films replenishes my creative juices and of course stories and films are similar in that they break life down into simple scenes.  Readers have said that my work is strongly visual. I wonder if my lifelong love of film has caused that strength?

9) If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?

The Emotional History of Women.
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Title:The Wife TreeFormat:PaperbackPublished:February 12, 2002Publisher:Random House Of CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0679311297

ISBN - 13:9780679311294

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Book! I only read this book because it was a book club pick - I probably never would have picked it up on my own. I'm glad I did because I really enjoyed it!
Date published: 2017-01-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Staying Power I first read this book in 2002, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a strongly evocative tale of a woman who has been quiet and subservient for most of her life, who, upon her husband having a stroke, reawakens into the possibility of what life she has left - and how much she wishes to live it. At times hurtful and painful to read, the book is ultimately a very positive read: an expression of living and life worth living, and just what you can say back to a life of silence. Later, upon the death of my father in 2006, I re-read this book. I found a the book just as powerful - the fallout of the death of a loved one is sometimes a guilty relief (especially when the loved one has long suffered), and Speak really captures this.
Date published: 2008-07-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Novel of Hope This book is compared to the The Stone Angel and, where I found the ending of The Stone Angel depressing and heavy with hopelessness for any potential for people to change, The Wife Tree gives the opposite. First, The Wife Tree is a superior read - a page turner; and, second, in contrast to The Stone Angel, it left me with hope and optimism. I cheered for Morgan as she finally confronted her marriage and her children with raw honesty. If there's anything to be learned from this novel, it's not to wait til the age of 75 to confront our lives with the same honesty. One to definitely re-read.
Date published: 2003-01-19

Read from the Book

October 6The trees have begun to shed their leaves. This afternoon as I walked home, I watched them drift silently out of the two-hundred-year-old maples. Heading east from the hospital grounds, I found myself fortified by the fresh air, the steady winds, the warm sunshine, the sensation of my limbs swinging along, after the silence of the intensive care unit where all the patients have been struck dumb. At five o’clock, the oblique sunrays turned the sidewalks into pathways of gold. I put the ornamental parks behind me, the sprawling mansions. My old heart knocking against my ribs, I climbed a gentle hill toward home. Soon I’d entered sparer, simpler streets. For forty years this neighbourhood of fragile saltboxes stretching over three city blocks has been our home. Some of the houses, clad in tin siding, glint nakedly in the October sun. Others are covered with slate shingles, crumbling now with age. Four decades ago, this landscape was a bald plain. Before construction began, bulldozers were sent in to raze every living thing in sight, perhaps to remind us that, across the ocean, a war had devastated nature in its path. Soon the shadeless earth cracked and the thirsty gardens turned to dust and the parched lawns perished beneath the heels of growing families. But now we have mature trees and today, arriving home, I found Harry Lang standing in front of my house, a fan rake in his hand. Though a young man compared to William, he is, at fifty-five, retired and itching for chores.“Oh, Harry,” I said gratefully, “you don’t need to rake my leaves. I could do that.”“We saw the ambulance last night, Morgan.”“William has had a stroke.” Behind him, his wife, Heather, lingered on their porch, her white poodle pressed to her cheek, her glittering silver hair sweeping in waves back over her ears, the corners of her mouth turned up ever so slightly in sympathy. She is a woman who smiles at Life.The Langs were never able to produce children. Their hedges are neatly sculptured, their manicured lawns thick and green as a golf course, their pumpkin-coloured house without a flake of loose paint on it. All their energies have been poured into filling up the childless spaces in their lives. When our children were young, Harry used to tell William, “Heather loves to sit at the living-room window and count your children as they come home from school.” Seeing her now on the porch, I wanted to ask: Harry, what on earth has Heather been doing these past twenty years, now that there are no more Hazzard children to count?Harry is a tall man and many years ago he was handsome and raven-haired and sleek-bodied and graceful of limb, like Clark Gable. I had a crush on him then, but now that his hair and moustache are peppered with grey and his gut thrusts out with the pleasures of retirement, I wonder: Was I in love not so much with Harry himself as with the bouquets of iris and delphinia I saw him bearing home from the market for Heather? Or with the way he turned and gazed at her every time she came out of the house? The phrase dashing young man has always amused me, but in those days Harry really did seem to dash. He was so brimming with life, perhaps because, once it became clear that his seed would never flower in Heather’s womb, the two of them could lie recklessly, wastefully, in each other’s arms, certain that their passion would have no consequences – no hope or labour or responsibility or betrayal or risk attached to it – and Heather could trust that Harry’s little milky ejaculate pooling within her was solely for her thirst and he that her love channel existed only for his expeditions and not for the passage of a child into Life.“Has anyone come home, Morgan?” Harry asked me.“Morris will drive down as soon as he can.”“And the girls? Will the girls come home too?”“I haven’t had time to call them.”“You must do that, Morgan. Promise me you’ll call. A person needs support at a time like this.”“But they’re all so busy and so far away.”“I’m sure they’ll come. They’ll want to be here to shore you up. You’re lucky to have so many children, Morgan.”Up and down the street, the young rake-bearing neighbours trickled out into the soft dusk to collect the leaves, heaping them like gravemounds against the sidewalk curbs. We watched their children shout and run through the fading light and leap suicidally into these funeral piles, only to resurface miraculously unharmed, immortal, their nostrils, their ears powdered with bitter leaf-dust. This new generation of parents on the street does not come and introduce themselves to us. They remain distant. They keep their silence, like young saplings certain that it’s only a matter of time and patience before the ancient timbers – the hardwoods – fall and the forest is theirs. It was a sweet, tender evening, full of perfume and grief.“Were we ever young, Harry?” I asked.“You bet we were, Morgan. I can still picture you pushing a carriage down the street. A new baby in it nearly every year. It was a wonderful sight.”“I don’t remember it, Harry. I don’t remember a time when we weren’t old and wrinkled.”“You sound discouraged, Morgan. It’s important to keep your spirits up.”October 7A cold draft rose off the window this morning when I got up and peered out at the gentle slope of our little crescent. Searching for my winter housecoat, I parted the old curtains hanging across the closet, their pattern of tropical palms and birds of paradise faded now to muted olives and ochres. I remembered when the girls used to disappear behind those curtains as into the exotic foliage of a tropical jungle, dress themselves there, hiding from each other their developing bodies, perplexed by the soft beauty of their swelling breasts. Stepping across a small landing at the top of the enclosed stair, I looked down at the pie-shaped rear yard, a row of back porches, a screen of poplars, a busy thoroughfare beyond, the hum of its traffic drifting over the rooftops.

Bookclub Guide

1) Can you tell us how you became a writer?The idea to become a writer didn’t occur to me until I was in my mid-teens.  I didn’t, however, do much about it before my twenties.  I think there are a number of reasons for this.  Books weren’t a big part of my childhood.  We didn’t have books in our home — we simply didn’t have the financial means.  I rarely saw my parents reading.  They were too busy providing for a large family. The only books I remember in the house were the Bobsey Twins, and Pinocchio (a book that terrified me).  I did of course go to the library, but without someone to guide me to the good titles, I’m afraid I brought home a lot of junk — war thrillers and romances.  I missed out on all the childhood greats — the Narnia series, for instance, Alice in Wonderland, A.A. Milne, etc., and only came across these when I had children.  However, English was always my strongest subject — literature was what deeply moved me.  As an English major at university, I was obliged to study all the dead white males.  Needless to say, I had difficulty relating to these authors, both from a cultural and a gender point of view.  It wasn’t until my Masters year, when there was finally a Canadian Literature course on the curriculum (this was 1974!) that I encountered the work of Alice Munro.  Hers were characters and a territory I recognized immediately.  Like Munro, my mother came from Huron Country.  This connection has always seemed significant to me.  There was something about the texture, the tone, the space in Munro’s stories that I found familiar.  It wasn’t until I read her work that I started to understand that I might have something valid to write about–the ordinary lives of small-town Canadian women.  It was no doubt because of my enthrallment with Munro that I tackled the short story form.  A few years after graduating from university, I began to work with various authors teaching writing: W.P. Kinsella, Jack Hodgins, W.O. Mitchell, Alistair MacLeod, Guy Vanderhaege, Graeme Gibson.  With their encouragement, I persisted and went on to publish.2) What inspired you to write this particular book? Is there a story about the writing of this novel that begs to be told?It was the final years of my mother’s life that inspired me to write The Wife Tree.  After my father died, she lived alone in the small town of Woodstock, where I grew up.  Eventually, her eyesight was destroyed, like Morgan Hazzard’s was, by macular degeneration.  This left her isolated, vulnerable and depressed.  I think perhaps the loneliness I saw her experience at this time drove me more than anything to look at the life of an abandoned elderly woman.  I decided to write the story of a Catholic of my mother’s generation (she was born in 1912) who’d devoted her life to raising a large family, only to find herself frighteningly alone in the end, with a husband with whom she had little in common.  I chose to focus the antipathy between William and Morgan on the struggle between prairie and Ontario — something I sensed in our own home.  Born in Saskatchewan, my father longed all his life to return to the West.  My mother, however, wanted to stay in the city, in Ontario.  Into this story, I fit small bits and pieces from my mother’s past, which I’d mentally catalogued over the years — the fact, for instance, that she’d worked as a private nurse to an Italian woman in London, Ontario.  The circumstances of my father’s death were also important to me.  I was interested in the devastating effects of stroke, the physical and mental decline and the decisions family members have to make when the patient’s life becomes less and less sustainable.  The biggest surprise for me were Morgan’s letters. When I began writing the novel, I didn’t know that she was going to compose letters to her children.  But near the beginning, Merilee tells Morgan she must write to the distant sisters.  So I worked on one brief letter and then another, and suddenly Morgan’s true voice, her deepest feelings began to pour out in this correspondence.  I started to see that the letters were going to be the medium through which I would grow to truly understand Morgan.  They were an exciting part of the book to write. This is often the way.  It’s the author’s unexpected discoveries that make writing thrilling and well worth the struggle. 3) What is the major theme in this book? Who is your favourite character in this book, and why?Certainly, for me, motherhood is the strongest force in the book.  After that, selfhood.  I would say that the discovery that finally liberates Morgan from her loneliness comes when’s she’s speaking to the female officer at the police station on Boxing Day:  “One doesn’t need love so very much once one learns to value the self.”  This is what gives Morgan strength at the end of the book, in the absence of children, husband, church, friends:  accepting, embracing, loving the self.  Too often we allow others to tell us what we’re worth.4) Are there any tips you would give a book club to better navigate their discussion of your book?I think one of the most important things to bear in mind in reading The Wife Tree is that Morgan is human.  Society places such unrealistic demands and expectations on mothers that few of us can live up to the ideal.  Throughout the novel, Morgan is brutally honest with herself — she readily admits her small failures as a mother, especially with respect to Morris, and berates herself for her imperfections.  This seems to make some readers judge her harshly. If we stop and think of the causes and circumstances surrounding her shortcomings, we will understand, for instance, why she doesn’t go out to the hallway to thaw Morris’s frozen fingers when, as a child, he comes in from the cold after delivering his newspapers.5) What question are you never asked in interviews, but are desperate to answer?One of the things that surprised me most, among reactions to the novel, was the fact that almost nobody talked about the passage where Morgan falls in love with the Indian doctor (December 16).  This is my favourite part of the book, a section that I polished and polished and that I like to read over because of its sense of setting, its strong physicality.  It represents the happiest time in Morgan’s life, a period when she’s loved at face value (though it ends unhappily) and I’m curious as to why it’s not remarked upon more often.6) Has a review or profile ever changed your perspective on your work?I do listen to reviewers and take their criticisms seriously.  These are, after all, people who read a great deal and are skilled at analyzing books.  However, one must be careful to recognize that many reviewers read too quickly, don’t have the time to “listen” to books and are pressured to critique them within a brief time frame.If there’s any one evaluation of The Wife Tree that disturbed me and gave me pause for thought, it’s the suggestion that the novel was too tough, too hard-nosed, too much like real life and that Morgan was unlikable.  Does the novelist have an obligation to manipulate her/his material so that the reader is at first intrigued, then entertained and, finally, satisfied?  (Certainly this is what young authors are taught in writing school.)  Or does the writer have an even greater responsibility to present life in such an honest way that the reader may be disturbed?  This is a constant struggle for me at this point in my development as a writer.  Where does my responsibility lie?  To myself or to the publishing industry?  An agent who read the manuscript of The Wife Tree before it was published said something like this (I paraphrase): “The only sustaining moments for Morgan are the small kindnesses of strangers.  She is betrayed by her marriage, by the medical profession, by her children, her bridge-playing friends and the church.  These may not be messages the reader wants to hear.”7) Which authors have been most influential to your own writing?Alice Munro has been, as I’ve said, the most powerful influence on my work.  Other authors I read enthusiastically at the beginning of my career were Mavis Gallant and the American writer, Elizabeth Spencer, who lived and worked in Montreal for many years.  They are all practitioners of the short story.  They write about women, often from the first person point of view.  They get deep into the feelings of their characters.  This is my ultimate objective: to understand my characters so thoroughly that the reader is deeply moved by their “testimonial.”  It’s a process that takes a lot of digging.Having said that, the two people who influenced my writing most, are my parents.  There is something about the way their lives unfolded that I find deeply tragic, and this is the wellspring, the emotional landscape, from which I write.8) If you weren’t writing, what would you want to be doing for a living? What are some of your other passions in life?If I weren’t writing, I suppose I’d be a filmmaker.  I go to films a lot — foreign films and anything of value that Hollywood produces (though usually the pickings are slim).  Seeing films replenishes my creative juices and of course stories and films are similar in that they break life down into simple scenes.  Readers have said that my work is strongly visual. I wonder if my lifelong love of film has caused that strength?9) If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?The Emotional History of Women.

Editorial Reviews

“Dorothy Speak is one of our country’s finest writers and the story is full of startling revelations and starbursts of language…” — W.P. Kinsella“[This] novel, Speak’s first after two acclaimed story collections…is beautifully written…[an] absorbing novel.” — Georgia Straight“Sometimes you pick up a book and you just cannot put it down. The words leap off the page, seemingly written just for you, or even more spookily, written about you. That’s how I felt when I read Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners…I experiences that same thrill of recognition with The Wife Tree…With The Wife Tree, Dorothy Speak has earned a berth in the CanLit hall of fame, right alongside Laurence.” — New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal“Speak evokes here the colours, smells, and sounds of fall and winter with great finesse. She also sets up several plot twists that carry the story forward in a compelling manner…This is an angry book where the good characters get the best lines and the bad ones have no more life than William, imprisoned in his stroke-paralyzed body.” — Q & Q“Speak stands alongside Margaret Laurence and Constance Beresford-Howe in portraying indelible older women.” — Kitchener-Waterloo Record“Rooted firmly in the tradition of the Ontario Gothic, the sotry of [Morgan] Hazzard delivers literary pleasures of the hightest order. Weaving together recollection, dreams, and letters never sent, the narrative moves with a fluid power through the four seasons, reaching its climax in the depth of winter, and concluding on a triumphant, summery note…Speak is also blessed with a gift for black humour and a hardnosed empathy, which resists easy reduction to the maudlin or sentimental.” — Ottawa X Press“Morgan Hazzard is a unique and memorable character…” — Montreal Gazette“…The Wife Tree is a powerful novel, well worth reading for Speak’s ability to slice through to the ugliness in the human heart.” — Victoria Times Colonist“Like Carol Shields, Dorothy Speak has the remarkable ability to create mature female characters with whom we can readily empathize, and to translate the unspoken into language honestly, wisely and with insightful wit.” — Pearl Luke, Calgary Herald“There are small surprises in the novel — acts of rebellion and secrets revealed — all part of Morgan’s trek along the familiar road to self-actualization. In the end, what makes her an interesting character are her sharp insights abut sex, love, marriage and aging.” — Globe and Mail“The Wife Tree has strong narrative drive, vigorous prose enlivened by touches of eloquence and insight.” — Philip Marchand, Toronto Star“There’s something fascinating and frightening in reading a writer who is willing to take risks. Because we’re conscious of the dangers lurking at the turn of a page, it’s particularly exhilarating when, as in this first novel, the writer succeeds so brilliantly. With The Wife Tree, Dorothy Speak moves firmly into the first rank of Canadian writers.” — Ottawa Citizen“…[T]his superb first novel is…a…layered and complex exploration of love and what really stands between Morgan and happiness…Dorothy Speak is someone to sit up and take note of…Like [Alice Munro and Margaret Laurence], she writes about real, believable people, and makes compelling stories out of the mundane elements of their lives…The writing is deliberate and lyrical, lavish and full of pictures; the sense of character is intimate…Speak’s splendid first novel fills us with sumptuous detail…” — Hamilton Spectator“The Wife Tree doesn’t disappoint. In a finely constructed story of betrayal and redemption, Speak’s novel demonstrates that she can sustain a singular voice across a broader genre with the same wit and wisdom evidenced in her earlier works…The Wife Tree is both a backwards journey and a fresh look at the future…It’s a triumphant novel.” — Edmonton Journal