Review: My Husband the Stranger by Rebecca Done


What if it’s not a marriage anymore? What if your husband isn’t who you married?

About the Book

Publisher’s description: A tragic accident. A terrible injury. And in a moment the man you fell in love with – that sweet, caring, charming man – is transformed into a total stranger. One who snarls and one who shouts. And one who doesn’t seem to love you very much at all anymore. You swore to love each other in sickness and in health, but how would you cope? What would you do? And would you be strong enough to stay?

My Review

After several years together, Molly’s husband, Alex, has a terrible fall resulting in severe brain injury that leaves him psychologically changed from the man she married, effectively a “stranger”.  The book contrasts their life beforehand with the daily struggle to maintain their relationship after Alex’s injury.

I felt the author couldn’t quite make up her mind whether the novel was intended to be an insightful account of the impact of serious brain injury on a relationship, an “against the odds” romance or a psychological thriller. In the end, for me, it didn’t really satisfy completely in any of these respects. The strongest element was definitely the description of the day-to-day toll on a relationship of caring for a partner who has been changed physically and psychologically by brain injury. The author did a good job of conveying Molly’s conflicted feelings – sympathy and love for her husband but also rage, regret and frustration at the position she finds herself in – and the mental and physical burden of caring for a person with limited hope of full recovery. There are some touching moments that seem grounded in the reality of living with someone whose symptoms can change from day to day, hour to hour: “Just when I think I have totally lost him, for a few precious moments I always find him again.” I found the sections detailing Alex and Molly’s relationship before his accident a little cheesy; everything was a bit too perfect – Alex himself, their wedding, their life together before his accident. However I appreciate the author was probably trying to build up a picture of what Molly has lost to explain why she wants to stick with Alex and hold on to the hope of an eventual recovery. I found the mystery introduced towards the end of the book rather underwhelming and the reveal a little predictable. To my mind the author came perilously close to “good twin/evil twin” cliché in the characterisation of Alex and his brother, Graeme.

This was an enjoyable read with an interesting premise but I didn’t find it completely successful.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of NetGalley and publishers, Penguin, in return for an honest review,

Book facts: 480 pages, publication date 6th April 2017

My rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

In three words: Emotional, insightful, uneven

Try something similar…for a really compelling account of dealing with illness, I recommend Still Alice by Lisa Genova.

About the Author

Rebecca Done studied Creative Writing at the Norwich School of Art & Design and then worked for several years as a magazine editor. Currently a copywriter, Rebecca is also a keen runner, fair-weather surfer and one-time marathon canoeist. This is her second novel.

5 thoughts on “Review: My Husband the Stranger by Rebecca Done

  1. Pity it didn’t quite work, because it is an interesting premise. I always have a great deal of sympathy with the partners in situations where someone is changed so completely by accident or illness. Of course, I’d hope I’d cope if it happened to me, but I’m honestly not sure if I would… or could…

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