Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon (And Giveaway)

21st May 2012

*I received this book from the publicist Big Honcho Media through Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review.

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. He was cutting peppers for the salad. I looked at those hands and thought, I am going to have this man’s children.

32. That if we weren’t careful, it was possible to forget one another.*

At his business dinner one night, William, Alice Buckle’s husband, makes an offhand comment in front of his coworkers about Alice’s “smaller life” – he doesn’t intend to hurt her, but Alice, already uncomfortable in the business suit that doesn’t feel quite right, is thrown. Her life is already off kilter. Alice’s birthday will mark her as the same age as her mother when she died. And Alice’s life may be small, but it’s not inconsequential. She directs school theater. She raises two children. She meets with her grief support group. But her husband, the man she fell madly in love with, sees her life as small. Going online becomes Alice’s solace, so when she receives the survey on marriage, the questions allow her to open up and relive the closeness and love she once felt for her husband. But in sharing the answers with Researcher 101, she becomes fascinated by his position as anonymous reliquary for her deepest secrets and desires, and the further she feels from her life with William.

My thoughts: Alice is so funny. Wife 22 has been compared to Bridget Jones’s Diary, and I can see why. Alice is just a bit older than Bridge. She thinks her son may be gay and is a little overzealous in her acceptance. Her daughter is slim and hoards junk food, so she’s afraid she’s bulimic. Alice is so concerned that her mother’s death left her without the proper tools to be a mom, that she fails to see that she’s doing it and has done it and is ok.

And I know people bemoan the Internet, but right or wrong, it’s there for Alice in those moments when no one else is or can be, and watching Alice connect…to the Internet, with her husband, and with her children/friends is a humorous, fun, heart-rending ride. I absolutely raced through this book. I loved it. I’m not married, and I don’t have kids, but I can relate to Alice. She is completely imperfect. She can be selfish and negative and really silly at times, but let me tell you. Last week on Twitter I was complaining because my new jeans are too big. Too big. This is a problem I was begging for a month ago. So Alice? High five right here.

She, too, is self aware. She knows that she can be unreasonable and selfish, but unlike many of us, she owns it. She feels as though her life is converging on her, and she doesn’t apologize for it. Instead, she confesses, “When I’m in pain I want everyone I love on the island with me, sitting around the fire, getting drunk on coconut milk, banging out a plan.รขโ‚ฌย I can get on board with that. Is it inconvenient? Selfish? To hell with it. Alice wants what she wants, and for the first time in a while, she’s not afraid to say it. Double high fives.

Annnd…Random House has generously offered up two copies of Wife 22 for two U.S. readers of the blog. All you have to do is ‘fess up…what’s the last romantic gesture someone made for you that made your knees go weak? [Giveaway runs until midnight central time on Friday, May 25, 2012.]

GIVEAWAY RESULTS: Congrats Debbie and Con! Check your email for details. Thanks to everyone who commented. ๐Ÿ™‚

Preorder this (out 05/29/12) from Indiebound or for your Nook.

* Alice’s answers are listed sporadically, and the questions are at the end of the book. I never flipped and didn’t feel the need to. In fact, I think Gideon would have been better off leaving them off entirely, allowing the reader to wonder instead what Alice is saying with each response. In other words, don’t peek. Just leave it and enjoy the story.
P.S. Check out my post on Afterwards to see if you won the giveaway!

  • Annesbookgarden

    I really liked this book too. Alice is a great character to read about!

    • She really is. Checked out Goodreads reviews, and though most people enjoyed the book, Alice gets trounced. But honestly, she was so realistic to me.

  • Deb B.

    Your review definitely makes me want to read this. Last romantic gesture? My husband, unprompted, brought me ice cream in the middle of the work day. It was just what I needed to get through a long afternoon.

    • That’s quite the compliment. Thanks! And how fantastic. Ice cream in the middle of the day. How sweet. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Teresa Lukey

    I have wanted this book since I first saw if pop up on Friday Reads. My husband & his friends have been putting a new engine in my 69 Camaro. Mama likes to go fast and the old engine was SLOW. It’s almost done and I can’t wait to drive it.

    • It just so happened the publicist emailed me the same day Jen at Devourer of Books was gushing about the book on Twitter. Knew I had to get it.

      And love that you’re a speedster. I’m a car girl myself. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Con Martin

    This sounds very intriguing. Last romantic gesture – ordering my favorite candy from See’s in time for Valentine’s day.

    • You know I don’t think I’ve ever had See’s candies. I’ve heard they’re fantastic, though.

  • Last romantic gesture… okay ladies, you’re all going to want one like mine. I volunteer for Girls on the Run and wanted to make my running buddy (3rd grade) a cape. I cannot sew for my life and intended to just cut out fabric in the shape of a cape and iron on decals. My husband took it from me, said “that’s no way to make a cape” and then he researched online and spent three hours sewing up this cape. Seriously.

    • WOW. That’s impressive. What a hubby! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Debbie @ A Library of our Own

    In my life right now it would have to be letting me have a peaceful, kid free, nap. Boring, I know!

    • Not boring at all. It’s called life. ๐Ÿ™‚ And that is pretty darn sweet.

  • I really enjoyed BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY, both as a book and movie, so you’ve certainly piqued my interest.

    My sweet husband does ridiculously romantic things every day, but I’ll tell you about when he handed me a box with a golden apple inside. We’re both versed in Greek mythology so he knew I’d know what that meant. (I think you do, too.)

    • That’s pretty insanely romantic, but of course, it rather quickly brings to mind the Yeats poem “golden apples of the sun” – I’m not a huge Yeats fan, but that stanza has always stuck with me.

      As for Bridget Jones, the first time I saw it and she writes f*&*@*#&@&#@ck across the screen, I died laughing.

  • This book sounds right up my alley…too bad I don’t live in the US. Great review.

    • Sorry, Nishita! I really think you’d enjoy it. Hopefully a copy will make its way to you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Liz

    Goodness. Is Jen willing to clone her husband (because nothing in my experience beats hers)?

  • Oohhh this one sounds really good! I have seen several really good reviews, and I’m definitely intrigued. I love Bridget Jones’s Diary so the comparison (in terms of heroine) sounds like it’d be funny. I can’t wait to check this one out!