The Covered Wife is an intelligent, unusual and gripping debut, that takes us from a seemingly perfect marriage deep into a closed community and asks, ‘Where would you draw the line?’
Sarah is a smart, young lawyer working endless office hours when she falls head over heels for Daniel, who is handsome, passionate and part of the kind of large, chaotically loving family Sarah longed for as the only child of a single mother.
When Daniel introduces her to a charismatic young couple, Rabbi Menachem Lev and his wife, Chani, Sarah is drawn in by their progressive beachside synagogue. By the time the couple move to the Jamison Valley, where Menachem and Chani have established a community of believers, Sarah can’t imagine life without the friendship, purpose, and love she’s discovered.
Four years on, youthful fervour has given way to something darker. A series of terrifying truths emerges that tear Sarah’s world apart, and cause her to question everything – her faith, her marriage, and her future.
Lisa Emanuel’s debut had me hooked from the opening chapter. She has crafted a gripping page-turner that reads like a thriller, each chapter urging you to read more. It alternates between the present-day narrative and four years earlier. Now, young Sarah is married and deeply embedded in an Orthodox Jewish sect that has set up a community in the Blue Mountains. Make no mistake, what starts out as a naive dream for a harmonious religious existence quickly becomes something far more sinister and, yes, cult-like. It is fascinating to read as it unfolds.
The novel also follows Sarah four years prior when she first met the charming Daniel among the circles of high-flying lawyers in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs. Emanuel, who is both a lawyer and a writer, really taps into this echelon of society, which lends an air of authenticity to the story. The Sydney and Blue Mountains settings were also richly portrayed and very familiar, yet at the same time they felt like foreign, closed-off places.
Sarah’s relationship with Daniel develops in sweeping romantic fashion… So where did it all go wrong? Emanuel asks this throughout the book, as Sarah questions whether her own fear of losing her husband is greater than her personal freedoms. I ached for Sarah, as she struggles to see through the lies and manipulative behaviour of those around her, including those in her innermost circle. Emanuel illustrates how easily vulnerable people can get sucked into cults.
The Covered Wife races to its finale, with unexpectedly dark twists and turns. Don’t expect everything to be tied up in a neat bow – this story is filled with intrigue and secrets that will leave you thinking about its characters long after you’ve finished the book.