Some men put their trophies in glass cabinets. Others choose to marry them.
Lea Geller explores the life of a trophy wife named Agnes through her book, “Trophy Life.” Inspired by her experiences in California, Geller got a lot of her inspiration from the women she met with older husbands, no job, and other people looking after their children.
“She is a woman who is significantly younger than her husband, and who is considerably wealthier than she is,” Geller said of her protagonist. “Nothing else is expected of her but to look really good and be where he wants her to be.”
Although some women may fantasize about this kind of lifestyle, Geller explores the dangers of this level of financial dependence through a humorous work of fiction.
Agnes must learn to stand on her own when her husband disappears, taking care of her infant daughter. She has no money, home or staff, and is forced to move to Riverdale to teach at an all-boys boarding school. Riverdale Avenue gets a shout out in Geller’s book, and even creates a setting inspired by the College of Mount Saint Vincent.
Gellers details even go as far as the lack of supermarkets in Riverdale and the struggles some residents have when it comes to locating a quality food store in their neighborhood.
“I really do think (Riverdale) is ripe for fiction,” Geller said. “It’s very unusual — rural but not rural, and (a) completely mixed place to live. I’m surprised I don’t read more books about places in Riverdale.”
Geller, like Agnes, enjoys snacking, but other than that, the two women couldn’t be more different. Geller always has been independent, even after she got married at 24. Originally from Manchester, England, Geller came to the United States to study at Columbia University. She then went off to Stanford University to study law.
In California, Geller worked as a lawyer and clerked for a judge. Unlike New York City — or even Manchester across the pond — California gave Geller regular access to both the beach and sun.
Five kids later, however, Geller now lives in Riverdale, very much like Agnes. When she isn’t teaching at Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy four times a week, cooking, helping with homework and raising her children, Geller still finds time to write.
In fact, she wrote “Trophy Life” as her sons became teenagers, giving her a lot of insight into middle school boys. That provided inspiration to create the all-boys school Agnes teaches at.
“I wake up early and I yell ‘till about 8 o’clock,” Geller said. “Then they go to school and I go running in Van Cortlandt Park and I write until they come home from school. And then I cook and yell until 9 o’clock.”
Geller doesn’t find a lot of trophy wives in Riverdale. She herself never found an attraction to that kind of life. She married someone her age in the same stage of life she was.
“When you marry someone older, that person is already formed,” Geller said. “And you find that a lot of your decisions are made for you.”
Although Geller’s novel is funny, it still took a lot of hard work and persistence. Geller had the time of her life writing it, but it doesn’t mean the process isn’t without its anxiety and stress. Between her journey as an author and her duties as a mom, being a trophy wife was never even an option for Geller.
“You wake up and realize what you want,” Geller said. “And sometimes everything falls apart and Agnes may have never woken up from it. I think the dangers of that kind of life is that you lose your skills and this isn’t a stay-at-home mom thing, because when you lose all your money, you lose your staff and you haven’t been taking care of your children.”
Although the book is a work of fiction, it does teach lessons people can apply to their daily lives.
“I just think it’s realistic,” Geller said. “We also push ourselves out of our messes, and I wanted to tell a story about this woman who has to rebuild on her own.”