Whenever I visit home (Milwaukee, WI), I tend to pick up books about angsty people – cuckolded wives, depressed twenty-somethings, homicidal maniacs — books with characters that seem to equalize if only minutely the disfunction in my own family. I kid! Sort of. Anyways, over an eleven day visit home for the holidays, I read about seven of said types of novels, including Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon. Normally, I try to balance out the “candy” reads with something more highbrow, but this trip I didn’t bother. I was in brain candy heaven. Wife 22’s comedic dysfunction provided a sweet respite from my own holiday drama, and its au courant theme provoked an examination of the relationship (or lack thereof) between technology and connection. Indeed, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to unplug at night.
Set in modern times, the novel follows forty-something Alice Buckle’s mid”wife” crisis. Alice’s job as an elementary school drama teacher is more spectacle than reward, her husband William is distant and her marriage to him essentially sexless, and her children Peter and Zoe are alternately needy and increasingly (and alarmingly) independent. When an email inviting her to participate in an online study called “Marriage in the 21st Century” arrives in her inbox, Alice’s humdrum existence is shaken. Dubbed “Wife 22” by the research institute, Alice enters the rabbithole created by the particular combination of online anonymity and immediacy, and she finds herself twitterpated (that’s Bambi speak for “turned on”) by the confessional mode in which she communicates with Researcher 101, the equally anonymous person in charge of analyzing Wife 22’s responses. Comedic and dark at once, the novel follows Alice’s chaotic journey down the rabbithole. While the story is, at times, predictable, it is also witty (the dialogue is well-written) and provocative. It’s light enough a read to use as holiday recovery, while it’s also provocative enough to motivate some New Year’s resolutions around technology, connection, and relationships.
Novel type: Candy masquerading as real food (like, a protein bar) or a light meal that tastes like candy (perhaps a yogurt parfait?)
My rating: For what it is, i’d give it a 7.5/10. I laughed. I cried. I immediately called my cousin and recommended it to her.
Read if you’re: trying to escape family drama; interested in the relationship between technology, intimacy, and disconnection; in the midst of your own (ironic and self-aware) mid”wife” crisis and need something to resonate
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