Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride is set in Toronto in 1993 (then present day) and revolves around 3 women, who are close friends, united by the effect that a 4th woman, Zenia, has had in their lives. Infact, they have almost nothing in common except for the fact that Zenia has stolen their lovers from them at one time.
Once a month, the three now middle aged friends meet for lunch in a hip cafe called The Toxique. On their recent gathering, in walks Zenia, who they had thought was dead. Infact they had attended her funeral. The novel alternates between the present and flashbacks featuring the points of view of our 3 women – Tony, Charis, and Roz respectively. Zenia has given 3 different versions of her history to the three women and in the end they and us are sure as to which her true version.
As we learn, in the past Zenia has approached all 3 friends at different times for help, sympathy, love & money and betrayed them all in turn. She had affairs & stolen Tony’s husband West, Roz’s’ husband Mitch & also part of her business and ratted out on Charis lover & US draft dodger Billy. At the present stage, it seemed that she had also hooked Roz’s 22 year old son Henry – but it was later revealed that she was selling him drugs and that he was infact gay.
The chapters tells us the stories of these 3 women and how Zenia comes into their lives. All 3 have had struggles and pain in their lives and Zenia snatched what little love & happiness they got. Tony was the luckier one in that West comes back to her after Zenia is through with him and they live together. But Charis has no clue as to what happened to Billy and Roz’s husband Mitch is killed in what seems to be a suicide, after living with Zenia and then being dumped by her.
Zenia faked her death to get away from her life and live anonymously in Europe but then she comes back, haunting the three friends. They approach her individually at her hotel and she taunts then but when they decided to confront her together, she is found dead in the hotel pool. Her death is left as a mystery, as much of her life & origins were, and it also turns out that she had terminal cancer which would given her 6 months more. The 3 women resume their quite lives.