Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Julie's Review: Wife 22

Summary: For fans of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary and Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It comes an irresistible novel of a woman losing herself . . . and finding herself again . . . in the middle of her life.  Maybe it was those extra five pounds I’d gained. Maybe it was because I was about to turn the same age my mother was when I lost her. Maybe it was because after almost twenty years of marriage my husband and I seemed to be running out of things to say to each other. But when the anonymous online study called “Marriage in the 21st Century” showed up in my inbox, I had no idea how profoundly it would change my life. It wasn’t long before I was assigned both a pseudonym (Wife 22) and a caseworker (Researcher 101). And, just like that, I found myself answering questions.
7. Sometimes I tell him he’s snoring when he’s not snoring so he’ll sleep in the guest room and I can have the bed all to myself.
61. Chet Baker on the tape player. He was cutting peppers for the salad. I looked at those hands and thought, I am going to have this man’s children.
67. To not want what you don’t have. What you can’t have. What you shouldn’t have.
32. That if we weren’t careful, it was possible to forget one another.
Before the study, my life was an endless blur of school lunches and doctor’s appointments, family dinners, budgets, and trying to discern the fastest-moving line at the grocery store. I was Alice Buckle: spouse of William and mother to Zoe and Peter, drama teacher and Facebook chatter, downloader of memories and Googler of solutions. But these days, I’m also Wife 22. And somehow, my anonymous correspondence with Researcher 101 has taken an unexpectedly personal turn. Soon, I’ll have to make a decision—one that will affect my family, my marriage, my whole life. But at the moment, I’m too busy answering questions.
As it turns out, confession can be a very powerful aphrodisiac.

Review: There had been some buzz about this book on twitter, so when Amazon Vine had it up for grabs, I snagged it. I'm glad I did. Wife 22 is a fresh observation of married life and the pitfalls that can become it. Alice and her husband William are stuck in a rut. They've been married 20+ years and 2 kids, they don't really communicate other than what is needed to get through their daily routine. Alice struggles to find happiness in her marriage and her daily life. She teaches drama at a local elementary school and finds that there is more drama off the stage with the parents then on the stage with the kids.

One day Alice gets a email asking her to be in a survey about marriage. She thinks, "what the heck?" and fills out the initial acceptance survey. What happens is that the questions are pointed and cause Alice to think back to the the courtship between her and William. What it took for them to get to where they currently are in life. Alice is so focused on the fact that the current state of their marriage is William's fault that when people point out otherwise, she's quick to shut them out.

As Alice gets deeper into the survey and the questions, she finds herself bonding with Researcher 101. She finds herself creating a false Facebook profile to communicate with him. She finds herself anxious for communication with a man she's never met and the connection she thinks she has with him. One thing that I really enjoyed was how we didn't know the questions that Alice was asked in the survey but had to surmise what they were from her answers. It made the book more focused on the things that really mattered to her instead of how she answered the more general questions.

Some of the best characters are those who play an important role in her life: her son Peter, her daughter Zoe, her best friend Nedra and her old mentor Bunny. My favorite parts of the book are after Bunny arrives to visit for 3 weeks. She pushes Alice to confront her issues and to deal with the things that she doesn't want to deal with.

Ms. Gideon writes a wonderful novel about how we get lost in the daily ins and outs of our lives that we lose sight of what really matters. Have you really grown that far apart from each other that you can't find your way back? What will it take to find your way back?

If you are looking for a fresh view of marriage in the 21st century, then Wife 22 is definitely for you.

Final Take: 4/5



Allison May 8, 2012 at 9:26 AM  

Oh, I need to read this book!!!! I haven't heard about it on Twitter, but I have seen it mentioned on a few blogs, now. :)

Sarah (The Brazen Bookworm) May 9, 2012 at 8:45 PM  

I absolutely adored this book, and almost called in sick to work so I could stay home and finish it. :) I loved Peter too...I'm still so impressed this was a debut novel.

Meg @ write meg! May 22, 2012 at 9:12 AM  

Peter was the best! I stayed up late finishing this one last night and absolutely loved it. You're right: it's definitely a fresh take on marriage in modern times, without ever being cheesy and over-the-top.

Belgie June 14, 2012 at 9:57 AM  

I absolutely loved this book. I laughed, I cried, and even though at times I hated Alice, I also empathized with her. She was very real. She was definitely someone I'd like to meet and have a cup of coffee with. I had mixed feelings about William, but then, I think that was the point. The supporting cast was wonderful, including her son Peter (Pedro?), and Bunny, a mentor from her previous life. While I loved all of the book, the parts that I cherished most were in her answers in the survey. Her words were real, funny, moving, poignant and beautiful all at the same time and I can see her love of words. The interjected chapters with Google searches and screenplay dramas are risky, because they aren't as well written and deep as the rest; but it works very well for the epilogue.

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