Short Stories 366:356 — “It’s a Wonderful Wife,” by Camille Pagan

It’s probably obvious by now how much I love a retelling, given how I try to write one every year, and so it’s likely not a huge surprise that I loved this contemporary and gender-flipped version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” from Camilla Pagan, “It’s a Wonderful Wife.” We meet Bailey George (who runs George Cannery, the family business she took over when her parents died) at the start of one of the worst days of her life, which also falls on the anniversary of the worst day of her life (that being when her parents died). Her aunt tells her that she’s managed to fumble the loss of two hundred grand from the company account, which means she can’t handle payroll, and when Bailey goes home to try and come up with alternatives, she finds her husband and her best friend in bed, and honestly, it’s no wonder she takes off to the local watering hole—Clarence’s, natch—and gets drunk.

You know what follows: a wish she’d never been born, having the wish granted, and waking up (sans hangover) in a world where she never was. This is a tried and true narrative going back to the original short story the movie was based on, and in Pagan’s hands, the little twists and tucks and nods to the movie delight as little Easter Egg references. This was an audio, and listening to it while I recovered from a really rough migraine was a dash of joy in an otherwise ruined day, and I really appreciated the little lift. More, despite this being tried-and-true, I liked how things came together, how Bailey recovered some of her own direction, and how the author didn’t force any reconciliation plots into the mix (I know, I know, I always mention how I hate those, but it’s true).

If you find yourself in the mood for some holiday fun, and you’re a fan of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” then I’d honestly suggest giving this one a go. It’s performed amusingly—Bailey’s asides are delivered with just the right amount of snark—and the ending has the right measure of potential new beginnings tucked amongst the inevitable endings sparked in the opening. Also? No angels and wings, nor a little kid bleating out that line in a forced, plastic way. (What? I never said I loved everything about the movie, and that kid’s line at the end is the worst.)

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