Ghost-Wife-by-Michelle-DicinoskiAt the heart of this memoir, written by Brisbane based lesbian author Michelle Dicinoski, is a love story.

Michelle from Australia and Heather from America fall madly in love and decide they want to commit to one another and get married. Of course, we know how this story ends – they are denied this opportunity to wed in either of their home countries because they are a same-sex couple.

These two inspiring young women, however, refused to let the story end there.

It’s 2005 – just one year after the Howard government’s now-infamous Marriage Amendment Act 2004, which states “Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.” It was also a time where only one state in America – Massachusetts – recognised same-sex marriage.  The Marriage Equality fight was not one that much garnered space in newspapers or on the evening news.  A brutally honest assessment would suggest that most people in the hetero-mainstream either disagreed with same-sex marriage, or they couldn’t have cared less.

So what began as a fanciful idea, turns into a journey full of love, laughter, hope, frustration and ultimately joy, as Michelle and Heather travel from Australia to the US and onto Canada, a country that had just, that very year, legalised same-sex marriage, and was one of only four countries in the world that had done so.  It is here that they marry, but it’s a marriage short-lived as they must leave it at the border – no longer legal once they leave the land of the maple leaf and ice hockey.

The title of the memoir springs from the heart-breaking reality that once Michelle and Heather are outside of Canada they face becoming a ‘ghost wife’.  Not recognised in either the US or Australia, where the best they can hope for is recognition as a de facto couple, as each other’s ‘partner’, not each other’s wife.

There are moments of sadness in this story –Michelle’s family are deeply homophobic and unaccepting of her marriage to Heather, and then there’s the reality of their marriage status once they leave Canada.  But there are also moments of sheer joy – the open-armed love and acceptance of Michelle by Heather’s American family; the moment of connection that she shares with Heather’s frail and elderly grandfather; and the commitment that these two women make– evident in their journey halfway around the world to demonstrate their love for one another.


Dicinoski scatters through her story brief histories of lesbians from bygone eras, and the struggles they underwent to make a life together, their love more often than not deeply hidden from mainstream society.  I found these stories fascinating and the overall memoir could have been enhanced further with more of these included.

Heart-warming, funny and ultimately full of hope, Ghost Wife is an entertaining read that will take you on the journey of two young women on the road to recognition.