Award-winning poet Gudrun Mouw fearlessly exposes the raw underbelly of modern dysfunctional marriage through her frank and elegant exploration of her own 21-year transformation. From early disenchantment, through the kaleidoscopic spectrum of motherhood, to eventual separation and spiritual resolution, Wife of the House leads the reader on a turbulent and timeless journey toward self-truth and lasting fulfillment within the constraints of addiction and longing.
Sometimes heartrending, often deeply provoking, each poem unerringly reveals another facet of the intricate and echoing spiral that is any tumultuous intimate relationship. Whether exploring the frailty of a family’s ability to acknowledge each other, the violation of trust, or the resounding richness of a moment in nature’s embrace, the author brings insight and exquisite grace to the layered complexities of everyday life.
Review of Wife of the House from LibraryThing:
….Wife of the House, Gudrun Mouw’s first book, is not difficult to address on the level of affective response, because poetry is all affect. Yet, if it were merely that, it wouldn’t be as compelling as it is. In this considered exploration of the critical moments that poked holes in the consciousness of a traditional marriage spanning 21 years, Mouw articulates that there is, indeed, a great deal more going on. Here, Mouw is working within the broad category of spiritual writing, and her small corpus of poetry warrants being included in the mindfulness subset. The themes in Wife of the House are reflected through the lense of meditation methodology, calling her home to wherever she is in any given moment, and helping her to abide there and pay attention—even when, like all of us at particular moments in our lives, it’s clear that she’d prefer be anywhere other than exactly where she is.
The richness of this study of frustration, despair, optimism, compassion, and love is set against the backdrop of second-wave feminism. During the 1960’s and 70’s, when these poems were written, it was common for an American female to marry in her late teens or early 20’s, immediately produce babies, and devote her entire existence to homemaking, spending an average of 55 hours per week on child care, husband care, and domestic chores . Wives were legally subject to the household decisions of their husbands via “head and master laws”, and had no legal right to any earnings or assets accrued during the marriage (including her own earnings, or assets and property she may have brought into the marriage and subsequently placed under joint ownership) aside from a limited right to “proper support”. If the marriage deteriorated, divorce was difficult to obtain. The no-fault divorce hadn’t yet been invented, so irreconcilable differences were not grounds, forcing women to legally prove wrongdoing on the part of their husbands in order to get divorced. 
Mouw’s progression of insight—through marriage, society, and self—illustrates how women of the era began to construct and edify autonomy, making direct participation in governing their own lives both meaningful and acceptable, and how social and personal realities reflected or differed from the culture of feminism rooted in the Friedan era. In addition to the direct exploration of feminist and metaphysical themes, there are fusings of past and present, abrupt transitions of scenes, and shifting viewpoints that provide readers with enough information to understand the restraint of Mouw’s allusions, and hitting the mark in showing how the poet is playing with interpretation, drawing the reader to the margin of making sense of convention and then pushing them over the edge into both the nonsense of convention, and the intuitive truth of the unconventional.
The evolution of Mouw’s identity, her increasing clarity of mind throughout the marriage years, and the brevity of the volume make it very much worthwhile to read each page in sequence, and the entire book in one sitting.
Gudrun Mouw (nee Wacker) was born in 1944 in the province of East Prussia, part of the German state of Prussia between 1878–1945. After her maternal grandfather received deportation papers to Auschwitz, the Wacker family travelled to the United States as refugees in 1951. In 1969 Mouw received an MA in English Literature from San Jose State University. Since 1976, she has worked in Santa Barbara as a wife and mother, English teacher, librarian, reporter, and yoga-meditation teacher. The former and latter associations feature heavily in her writing.
 A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s. Coontz, Stephanie. Basic Books, 2011. p. 42.
 When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. Collins, Gail. Little, Brown & Company, 2009. p. 43.
*Please note that I received a free advance copy of this book in exchange for a candid review. I have no connection to the author or the publisher of this book.*