THE BOOK: A Wife in Bangkok: A Novel.
PUBLISHED IN: 2020.
THE AUTHOR: Iris Mitlin Lav.
THE PUBLISHER: She Writes Press, recipient of the 2019 Independent Publisher of the Year award.
SUMMARY: Crystal’s husband, Brian, suddenly announces that the energy company for which he works is sending him to manage the Bangkok office, and that he expects her and their children to come along. She doesn’t want to leave the job she loves and everything familiar in their small Oklahoma town, but it’s 1975 and Crystal feels she has to be a good wife and follow her husband.
Crystal finds beauty in Thailand, but also isolation and betrayal. Fighting intense loneliness and buffeted by a series of frightening and shocking events, she struggles to adapt to a very different culture while battling a severe depression. Ultimately, she must decide whether her broken relationship with her husband is worth saving.
The struggle causes both Crystal and Brian to grow in resilience and resourcefulness — albeit, for Crystal, with some outside help. It is about overcoming the stigma of depression, and about the eventual triumph of love.
THE BACK STORY: When I retired from my long career in public policy, I felt that I wanted to write a book set in Thailand. I had moved to Bangkok in the mid-1970s with our family when my husband was posted there for his job, and my friends and colleagues always enjoyed stories I told about the country. I didn’t want to write a memoir, but did want to use the country as I remembered it as a backdrop for a book of fiction. I began writing the book in early 2016, so it has taken 4 ½ years from the thought to publication.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? My in-depth knowledge of Bangkok and other parts of Thailand brings the country alive for the reader. When I lived there, I learned to speak the language, studied the culture, and traveled extensively around the country. Given that one million US tourists visit Thailand each year (prior to the Coronavirus and hopefully after it is under control), this book provides a window on the Thailand that few tourists ever see. It should be of interest to people who have themselves lived overseas, to frequent travelers, to women who have felt at risk to losing their identity and autonomy in their marriage, and to the mental health community for its story of recovery and resilience.
WHY THIS TITLE?: I wanted to emphasize the word “wife” because I wanted to highlight the problems “trailing wives” – those who have moved overseas for their husbands’ jobs – have in adjusting and adapting to circumstances in a new country, having given up their own good jobs and support network. Despite all the advances in communication since the1970s, a recent study finds that more than half of expatriates were at high risk for internalizing problems (such as anxiety and depression), a rate 2.5 times their U.S.-based counterparts. Although today we might more properly say “trailing spouses” than trailing wives, the phenomenon is still a current problem.
“The growth process she [Crystal] experiences by being an American wife transplanted to the alien culture and conditions of Bangkok makes for a mesmerizing story that follows the logical progression of her evolution with an astute attention to detail and psychological development.” – D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review.
“A Wife in Bangkok by Iris Mitlin Lav was a very interesting read, and certainly well-researched as evident by the author’s own time in Thailand….. Overall, the novel itself was well-written and delivered at a steady pace that made me feel an attachment to the characters. I would definitely read another book by this author in the future.” – Readers’ Favorite.
“Over the course of this novel, Lav presents an ambitious tale about overstepping
cultural boundaries and losing one’s autonomy within a marriage. . . . an unusual
glimpse of life in Thailand in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.” — Kirkus Reviews.
“The adept handling of the main character’s conflict and the redeeming nature of love are matched only by the rich descriptions of the land, the people, and the culture. Indeed, Thailand is the other main character in this fascinating novel of a US family in that “faraway-country” of 1975.” — Jean P. Moore, award-winning author of Water on the Moon and Tilda’s Promise.
AUTHOR PROFILE: “I started writing A Wife in Bangkok when I was 70 years old. I had just retired from a long career in public policy, largely dedicated to improving circumstances for low- and moderate-income households. It is my first effort at writing fiction, and I am very happy and grateful that it is being published. I grew up on the south side of Chicago, in Hyde Park, met my husband at the University of Chicago, and moved with him to Washington, DC in 1969. We have three adult children and two grandsons.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: While set in Thailand, this book offers readers several themes that transcend its setting. One is loneliness, an affliction that research suggests affect one in five Americans at any time – a state which is detrimental to their mental and physical health. Another is the process and possibility of recovery from depression and personal resiliance. And still another is the possibility of overcoming obstacles and re-finding love.
LOCAL OUTLETS: Politics and Prose Bookstore http://www.politics-prose.com.
PRICE: paperback $16.95