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The Last Housewife


The Last Housewife

My introduction to Ashley Winstead was via her delightful political rom-com, FOOL ME ONCE, published earlier this year. I knew she also wrote psychological thrillers, but to say that I was not sufficiently prepared for her new one is an understatement. Her romantic comedy had a bit of a bite, but THE LAST HOUSEWIFE is dark, intense and, at times, downright disturbing.

Eight years after graduating from college, Shay Evans’ life is virtually unrecognizable from the one she once imagined. She attended famously progressive Whitney College in upstate New York and dreamed of becoming a writer. For a time, she did write some feminist opinion pieces for an online magazine. But since her marriage to a wealthy hedge fund manager, she hasn’t done much other than care for her husband, entertain his business and professional contacts, and stave off boredom in their ostentatious Dallas suburban home.

"It’s clear that Ashley Winstead is a talented writer, regardless of the genre, and I eagerly will seek out whatever she comes up with next."

However, everything changes, all at once, when Shay turns on a true crime podcast called “Transgressions.” The host happens to be Jamie, her best friend from high school. More shockingly, the subject of this week’s episode is Laurel, Shay’s closest friend from college. Unbeknownst to Shay, Laurel has recently died, her body found on the Whitney College campus in what police are calling a suicide but that Jamie (and soon Shay) suspects is murder.

Jamie knows that Laurel and Shay were close. He remembers meeting them during a chance encounter in New York City during their college years. So he puts out a call at the end of the episode for Shay to contact him, which --- shaken and more than a little uncertain --- she does. When the local authorities prove less than helpful, Shay and Jamie take matters into their own hands, uncovering a tangled web of secrets that seem bizarrely --- and disturbingly --- connected to events that happened to Shay and her friends back in college.

THE LAST HOUSEWIFE unfolds in two ways. First, the straightforward narration recounts Shay’s efforts to infiltrate the secret organization that she suspects has something to do with Laurel’s death. The narrative also progresses via transcripts of interviews between Jamie and Shay, which reveal the dark and twisted circumstances of Shay and Laurel’s college friendship, along with older secrets that Shay has so far kept buried from Jamie and, in many ways, even from herself.

This is not a light or easy read; it raises many questions about sexual consent and agency as it depicts a powerful organization hellbent on maintaining that power. But it's also suspenseful and propulsive, as Shay begins getting closer and closer to the truth --- and gradually starts to recall the self she’s kept painfully buried for far too long.

It’s clear that Ashley Winstead is a talented writer, regardless of the genre, and I eagerly will seek out whatever she comes up with next.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on August 19, 2022

The Last Housewife
by Ashley Winstead