Review: Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

Title: Wife 22

Author: Melanie Gideon

Published: Random House May 2012

Synopsis: 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

Status: Read on May 22, 2012 — I own a copy {Courtesy Random House/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon is a thoroughly entertaining novel of love and marriage in the 21st century. Fast approaching the age at which her own mother died, Alice Buckle is in the restless throes of a mid life crisis. Anxious that her family is falling apart – her husband is increasingly aloof, her teenage daughter is showing symptoms of an eating disorder and she thinks her 12 year old son is in denial about his sexual orientation – Alice finds herself questioning her choices in life. When an email arrives inviting Alice to participate in an online anonymous survey about marriage and family, she impulsively agrees and is assigned to Researcher101. For Alice, known as Wife 22, the questionnaire becomes a type of therapy and as Researcher101 accepts and validates her feelings, an intimacy develops that threatens everything Alice has worked so hard to hold onto.

There are aspects of my life that have, at one time or another, echoed Alice’s own and I found I related to her easily. I understand her concern that her children, who in growing up, are growing away from her. I also empathise with her discovery that she and her husband have drifted apart as the focus of the relationship begins to shift from the all consuming needs of young children and career goals to their partnership. Gideon captures Alice and William’s fear and confusion about their relationship and their reluctance to face the issues, realistically.
Alice is flawed, but no more than most of us. While I don’t condone Alice’s escape into a pseudo intimate relationship with Researcher101, I understand it. After years of marriage that frisson of excitement that comes from mutual attraction, a reminder of youth and passion, can be dangerously addictive and in her relationship with Researcher101, Alice can evade facing the more uncomfortable realities of her life.
William isn’t a particularly sympathetic character, he is fairly dismissive of Alice and seemingly uninterested in her emotional crisis. His job has been his consuming focus for so long that it is only when he is fired that he realises that there is distance between them and is at a loss at how to deal with it. He does however mange to redeem himself beautifully.
The format of Wife 22 is unusual, mixing narrative with Facebook status updates, emails, google searches, twitter posts and answers to the questionnaire, but it works brilliantly. At first I was annoyed that the survey questions are only listed an appendix, as in electronic format they are difficult to access, but I soon discovered I could work out the gist of the questions as I read on and it became less of an issue.

Wife 22 is a thoughtful yet entertaining examination of mid life and marriage. Engaging, funny and clever, this is an impressive fiction debut from Melanie Gideon I look forward to her next novel.

Available To Purchase

@Amazon I @BookDepository

Alternate Cover

HarperCollins UK

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. laurelrainsnow
    May 28, 2012 @ 09:01:35

    Oh, I’ve had this one on my list…I’m not sure about the format, but maybe it will be very “21st Century.”

    Sounds like something I could relate to…



  2. Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic
    May 28, 2012 @ 13:26:45

    I’m intrigued with this one but I’ve heard mixed reviews. Usually I don’t like formats like that but I’ve been pleasantly surprised before so I’m now more open to it. Great revoew.



  3. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    May 28, 2012 @ 15:06:53

    I like the sound of this one, and the format sounds curious (although I’d be sure to read it in print, not ebook format). I prefer the UK cover by far–the other one looks like an air freshener ad or something!



  4. Margaret Lynette Sharp
    May 28, 2012 @ 15:54:28

    It sounds as though this book will strike a chord with many. Thoughtful and revealing review!



  5. Mystica
    May 28, 2012 @ 16:44:10

    I am so intrigued by your review



  6. shelovestoread
    May 29, 2012 @ 00:35:03

    this book sounds good, ive added it to my wishlist 😀



  7. brazenbookworm
    May 31, 2012 @ 09:29:31

    I adored this book! I’d love to discuss with Gideon why she chose to put the questions in the index. It was obviously a deliberate choice, and I’d love to hear why she did it that way.



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