Everyone has a monster in them. The proof is in the book, “The Mere Wife” by Maria Dahvana Headley. Headley’s modern telling of Beowulf is extremely genius and quite creative. Headley does an excellent job of clearly displaying characteristics of the original text “Beowulf” in a simple way for the reader to make connections throughout the book, but still keeping the text in her style and on a good story track. Although Headley did an excellent job keeping her voice and relating back to Beowulf, her modern retelling lacked things like narrator clarity, effective point making and not making me cringe on character development.

One of my favorite aspects of this novel was the fact that I got to hear from almost every person throughout the book because in most written narratives, the reader only hears from one main character. Reading from different character voices helped me understand the characters more and sympathize. However, this close connection to the reader was ultimately the down fall of my views and opinions of Willa and Ben. (We will get to that in paragraph four though.)

Having the ability to move from character to character is something I would never ask Headley to change. While diving into new chapters though, I often found myself flipping back to figure out which character I was reading in that moment. Headley could have made this clearer by just entering the name of the person at the beginning of each chapter.

The overall point of the retelling is quite shaky. Many people have debated what the main message of the novel is over and over. This is because of constant reflection of war, violence and sadness throughout all the characters, but hardly any clues to who is the real monster. Although this can be somewhat confusing, I believe Headley did this on purpose to clearly say that everyone has this monster in them, no matter who they are.

Headley took different ages, sexes and personalities to show the versatility of monstrosity. With quite a few people at range, Headley was letting the reader know that we are all monsters no matter how perfect anyone thinks they are. Quite powerful, in my eyes.

I really have no idea if Headley’s intentions were for the reader to hate half of all the characters in this book or if things just so happen to be that way for myself only, but I really did hate a majority of people in this book.


First of all, Roger had it coming for him. After Willa finds out about Tina, the pregnant mistress, the death of Roger was a pleasant surprise. However, all those old women are over controlling, traditional, pricks who I felt had a gassed up head. Ben is an insecure weak liar and Willa killed two sons! These flaws all tie into why everyone is a monster, but I still hated them. Instead of critically thinking throughout the end, I was just mad because Willa doesn’t die.

Although there were some minor flaws that could have been easily resolved, this book was a wonderful read because it kept me on my toes. I managed to finish the book fairly quickly because of the suspense. I would recommend anyone to read this book, but I would also recommend that they read Beowulf first since it is a modern retelling of the original.

Photo by Xavier Mouton Photographie on Unsplash