“The Husbands” Is a Murder Mystery for the Modern Woman

In a world where women are increasingly making their way to the top, they’re left to wonder who will take care of everything at home. In her latest novel, The Husbands, Chandler Baker tackles this topic in a surprising and sometimes disturbing way, as illustrated in the following passage: “He will take out the trash later. Do the dishes later. Clear the table later. She waits, she bides time, she goes with the flow, and her world goes kablooey. It’s happened before. And before and before and before. It will get done. But the part that he leaves out is that he’ll have nothing to do with the doing. It’s like he thinks their house, their toddler, their lives, are kept on track by magic. As though she’s the family Rumpelstiltskin. He goes to bed and – voila — see, Nora? All taken care of! And, my god, woman, why are you so sweaty?”

Set against the backdrop of an idyllic neighborhood in Texas, Baker captures the very essence of exasperation in a marriage where the home-work life is unbalanced. She is able to highlight and maybe even validate the inner turmoil that many modern, working women tend to feel in their own lives – and she doesn’t hold back. Rather, she takes this idea to the extreme. Instead of just asking what if? and bogging the reader down with speculation, she adds in a juicy murder mystery that will keep you turning the pages late into the night. She evokes simultaneous feelings of envy and disgust, intrigue and shock, validation and the hope that we never actually take things that far. She does all of this and still manages to keep the tone of the piece light and the voice almost conversational.

Chandler Baker’s life mirrors that of her main character. She’s an attorney in Texas, where she lives with her husband and toddlers. Luckily, though, her life is slightly more devoid of the color that keeps her readers on the edges of their seats. She’s newer to the writing scene as she spent a lot of her career working mainly in law, including a stint in a D.C. law firm, though her love of reading and true crime novels in particular shows through in her writing. She started out writing young adult novels, and her transition into writing novels for an adult audience has, so far, been a success. In addition to writing books that focus on the struggles of the modern woman, she also writes personal essays that further discuss the common struggles of women and of her own life. In a word, she is extremely accessible to her readers.

We’ve always been taught the buddy system, to stick together, and, more recently, to “straighten each other’s crowns.” This is the feeling that Baker evokes with her relatable and witty new novel. Of course, she won’t let it be all serious. There’s also that aspect of mystery that keeps us turning the pages for hours at a time. If you’re anything like me, you might also be yelling at the book, wondering why Nora isn’t seeing a ton of red flags everywhere. Perhaps this is something to consider when thinking about the overwhelming burden put on working women in our society. How much will we be willing to overlook just to get a little help? That is the central question of the novel, even as it does the deeper work of addressing real issues experienced by women every day.

The Husbands is a novel that begs to be remembered for its insight. It capitalizes on the workload of the modern woman and the struggle of maintaining the work-life balance that many of us feel on a daily basis. Hopefully our solution to this problem won’t be as extreme, but you never really know, do you?

The Husbands
By Chandler Baker
Flatiron Books
Published August 3, 2021