In Gail Godwin's novel The Good Husband 58-year-old Magna Danvers is dying of ovarian cancer. She is a college professor and author of "The Book of Hell: An Introduction to the Visionary Mode". She observes, "It seems the Great Uncouth has taken up permanent residence inside me. Well I always was a good student. Now I must see what I can learn from my final teacher." While the college scrambles to find the funds to set up a chair of visionary studies in her name, her loving husband Francis patiently looks after her. He left Catholic seminary to marry Magna and to become her house husband. "It suits me," he once told her, "to serve other people's needs."
The odd but enduring relationship between Magda and Francis holds great fascination for Alice, a former book editor married to Hugo, the writer-in-residence at the college. Their marriage has been grievously wounded by the tragic death of their son during birth. In her visits to Magda, Alice finds herself drawn to the serenity of Francis. When Hugo stops by, Magda tells Alice, "I still don't believe this man is your husband." In all respects he isn't, having secretly given his heart over to a new historical novel and the praises of a patron who believes that her life has been saved by his writings.
At one point in The Good Husband, Gail Godwin writes, "Most people concurred that it was a good thing to educate the mind, but not everyone understood that it was also necessary to educate your feelings." These four characters all undergo a testing of their emotions. As Magda faces death, she is able to read people's hearts, passing on soulful information to two very important people in her life. Alice, a passive woman, falls in love with Francis and needs some time to handle the intensity of her feelings. Hugo, realizing his marriage is over, accepts the news and grows in the process. Francis, a person whose life has been animated by serving others, accepts Alice's help as he staggers on a new path of introspection.
Jean-Paul Sartre once called emotions "magic transformations of the world." In Gail Godwin's compelling novel, The Good Husband, they are center stage. You will be entranced by the power of emotions in the lives of these characters. And after reading this novel, you'll find yourself more willing to listen to your heart.