New York Times bestselling author Maria Dahvana Headley’s fierce, feminist retelling of the classic tale of Beowulf.
To those who live there, Herot Hall is a paradise. With picket fences, gabled buildings, and wildflowers that seed themselves in ordered rows, the suburb is a self-sustaining community, enclosed and secure. But to those who live secretly along its periphery, Herot Hall is a fortress guarded by an intense network of gates, surveillance cameras, and motion-activated lights.
Dylan and Gren live on opposite sides of the perimeter, neither boy aware of the barriers erected to keep them apart. For Dylan and his mother, Willa, life moves at a charmingly slow pace. They flit between mothers’ groups, playdates, cocktail hours, and dinner parties. Gren lives with his mother, Dana, just outside the limits of Herot Hall. A former soldier, Dana didn’t want Gren, didn’t plan Gren, and doesn’t know how she got Gren. But now that she has him, she’s determined to protect him from a world that sees him only as a monster.
When Gren crosses the border into Herot Hall and runs off with Dylan, he sets up a collision between Dana’s and Willa’s worlds that echoes the Beowulf story — and gives sharp, startling currency to the ancient epic poem.
‘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.’
Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger’s Wife
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‘[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 fervor, Headley’s novel prompts examination of how people create or become monsters.’ STARRED REVIEW
‘There’s not a false note in this retelling, which does the Beowulf poet and his spear-Danes proud.’ STARRED REVIEW
‘Headley applies the broad contours of the Beowulf story to her tale but skillfully 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 recognizable modern landscape where … “the world isn’t large enough for monsters and heroes at once”.’
‘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.
‘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
‘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
Praise for Maria Dahvana Headley:
‘Maria Dahvana Headley is a firecracker: she’s whip-smart with a heart, and she writes like a dream.’