Title: Wife 22
Author: Melanie Gideon
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Alice Buckle has found herself bored with her life. Her children, Zoe and Peter, are growing up too fast, and soon, Alice will be an empty nester. The gulf between her and her husband, William, has been widening as of late and they don’t seem to communicate. All Alice really has left is her job as the drama teacher at a local school, and even that doesn’t seem to be fulfilling her as it once did. But when the offer to participate in an anonymous study on marriage appears in Alice’s inbox, she jumps at the chance for something new. She becomes Wife 22 and is assigned a researcher, only to find herself surprisingly attracted to this man she barely knows.
Wife 22 examines powerful questions of love and family through the prism of a neurotic and quirky woman. Alice loves her husband and children, but after years of marriage and being a mother, there is real distance there. They rarely talk anymore, and when they do, it isn’t about anything important. With the researcher, Alice isn’t just a wife and mother – she’s a woman, and for once, someone is actually asking questions and listening to the answers. It’s an amazingly powerful thing, to be listened to, and it’s what has Alice investing way too much time into this study.
Alice herself is an amusing, three-dimensional character, though she comes across as very selfish at times. Gideon wrote her with a lot of depth; she leaps off the page, as real as any person you might meet. At the beginning, she’s quite appealing and charming, especially with her internet obsession. But she becomes completely wrapped up in the study and her crush on the researcher threatens to overwhelm her. She begins ignoring real life and living for these emails.
Once Alice becomes completely enmeshed in the study, she stops doing anything to improve her situation at home. Gideon is a talented writer, and Alice’s unhappiness and hopelessness is palpable – readers will really sympathize with her. She’s torn between her family and the possibility of something entirely new. But the frustration with Alice comes when it concerns her children: they are both in the throes of teen angst and clearly need a mom, especially her daughter, Zoe, who Alice suspects has an eating disorder. It’s remarkable how little Alice dwells on this or follows up, except when it’s thrown back in front of her face.
That being said, despite Alice’s selfishness, Wife 22 is a witty look at a modern day marriage. Women, especially those in Alice’s position, will really be able to relate to her dilemmas. All of the characters in the novel are very well-written; there are no flat characters in this book! However, the ending is completely predictable, which is a bit of a disappointment. I will say that most other people enjoyed this book more than me (at least from the reviews I’ve seen), which isn’t to say I disliked it, just that I had some issues with it. Still, if you’re looking for an escape into women’s fiction, this would likely be a good choice.