#SheReviews The Work Wives by Rachael Johns

April 3, 2023

Can women ever truly know their female friends, particularly a work friend, thoroughly and intricately? Can secrets between those friends surreptitiously co-exist within the framework of a solid and well-chiseled kinship?

These questions are ennobly and forthrightly examined in phenomenally talented and highly successful Australian author, Rachael Johns’, latest stellar novel, The Work Wives (in the genre of women’s fiction, or as Rachael herself coins it on her website, ‘life-lit’).

Taking place in the eternally buzzing metropolis of Sydney, The Work Wives follows the plethora of trevails, testings and varied tribulations of Debra Fast (forty-two), a payroll manager for the moderately-sized company, The Energy Co, and her best friend and work buddy, Quinn Paladino (twenty-seven), an employee in the digital marketing section of The Energy Co.

Deb and Quinn may be ‘besties’ at work and in the outside world, but they are light years apart in terms of their life choices and even their emphatic outlooks and world views.

Deb is a stridently devoted and caring mother to a sensitive and loving, yet defiantly assertive, fifteen year old daughter, Ramona. Ramona is in grade ten at Smythes Ladies College, where she is on a scholarship, having been drawn to the school for the elite fashion program. Ramona, living with Deb in Granville in the western suburbs, has been a social outcast at her previous school and is pliably eager to fit in at SLC. When she is reached out to in a kindly (or is it?) manner by Sydney, Kenzie and Nyra (three of the ‘popular set’ at school), Ramona thinks she has it made. Or does she?

There are gasping gaps in Ramona’s life, as Deb has informed her uniformly that Ramona’s father was a sperm donor, as Deb had sworn off men and saw that as a way to have a child. Deb has not had a boyfriend since Ramona was born.

Quinn, on the other hand, is consistently on dating apps, searching anywhere she can for ‘Mr Right’. She resides in the upmarket and hip Sydney suburb of Darlinghurst, sharing a terrace house with her brother, Declan, and his partner, Darpan.

A hurricane of unheralded and unyielding intensity arrives in the office late one otherwise mundane and predictable Friday afternoon, when Shaun Reid, the CEO, gathers employees in the boardroom to introduce the new director of sales. Deb and Quinn are about to discover that one of them will be left loftily euphoric by the new appointment and that one of them will be unmercilessly propelled into a uniquely clandestine and ghoul-like nightmare.

Who is the new director of sales, and why has he caused so wildly differing reactions in Deb and Quinn? What is the inestimable secret that Deb has been keeping to herself for so long? Will Ramona be happy at the ‘posh’ school of SLC and can she truly and unreservedly ‘fit in’?
Will Quinn ever find her ‘happily ever after’ with a man who adores her? Will Deb forever give men a wide berth and why?

Rachael has written an intellectually soaring novel, full of wisdom and insight into the at-times fragile and fraught, at-times ironclad and sometimes menacing human condition and psyche. Illuminating themes of abuse (mental, emotional, physical and sexual), bullying, social media (both the perils and benefits of), mother/daughter relationships, female friendship and male/female relationships are superbly examined and explored in The Work Wives.

Bravo Rachael! Once again you have knocked it out of the ballpark with your writing. I was turning the pages faster and faster the further I progressed in my reading of The Work Wives (always a sign of an exemplary read). This is another spectacular read from Rachael which I loved, and I can’t wait to see what Rachael writes next.

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