Saturday, April 6, 2013

~ ~ Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon ~ ~

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon 

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Date: February 12, 2013
ISBN: 978-0345527967
Pages: 416
Rating:  4.5 out of 5  

Book Summary:   Alice has been married to her husband, William, for twenty years.  Though she can still remember the first time they met like it was yesterday, these days she finds herself posting things on Facebook that she used to confide to him. So when she’s invited to participate in an anonymous online survey on marriage and love, she finds that all her longings come pouring out as she dutifully answers questions under the name “Wife 22.” 

Evaluating her responses is “Researcher 101,” who seems to listen to her in a way that William hasn’t in a very long time, and before she knows it, she finds herself trying hard not to e-flirt with him. Meanwhile, her elderly father is chatting on Facebook, her fifteen-year-old daughter is tweeting, and everything in her life is turning upside down. 

Wife 22 is a hilariously funny, profoundly moving, and deeply perceptive novel about the ways we live and love in this technological age, from a dazzling new voice in fiction. 

My Thoughts:   I adored the main character, Alice.  She’s sweet, funny, kind and a little nutty.  She’s also going through a difficult time right now.  Her 20th wedding anniversary is coming up.  Recently, she’s been especially troubled by a growing distance between she and William. They no longer confide in each other, let alone talk about anything deep or personal.  Alice has been busy raising their children, tending the house, being a good mother and a good wife for most of their marriage.  Suddenly, Alice realizes she's been feeling lost, alone, and even a little angry for quite a while.  It doesn’t help she’s about to turn 45, the age her mother was when she died, making Alice even more anxious than usual. What’s more, she has a host of fears and worries about her teenage daughter, Zoe and her 11-year old son, Peter.  Alice worries she’s lost touch completely with Zoe and worries, among other things, this will happen with Peter.  

 Alice is an extremely likeable character who she can also be infuriating.  She’s not without her faults: she spends more time checking Facebook than talking to her children and William.  She runs away from the problems and people she doesn’t want to face and can’t cope with.  She gets carried away with perceived fears she convinces herself are real and is often cold and unsupportive of William.  Alice’s flaws make her real and human.  What Melanie Gideon has done, superbly, is create a character that is easy to relate to and to understand.  I felt this way even when I didn’t agree with Alice’s behavior.  What makes this so amazing is that everyone one of us knows at least one person like Alice.  One doesn’t often find such a fleshed out character in fiction, where stories are often populated by people of extremes. 

Many women will surely see some of themselves in Alice, as well.  Alice’s fears and worries are ones many mother’s share sometimes, if not always.  Because of her inability to confront her fears and deal with her problems, there were times I wanted to throttle Alice.  She escapes into her computer, furthering her disconnection with her children.  And yet these same infuriating dysfunctions make Alice relatable and evoke sympathy, if not empathy.  Ironically, her failure to connect with her family underscores the importance of connecting.  As long as she remains disconnected from those around her, nothing in her life works.  Her disconnection from herself is what ultimately keeps her from realizing this basic truth.  There were plenty of times when I wished I could confront her just to say, “What are you thinking?” or “Stop that!” much as her best friend, Nedra does many times.  Not surprisingly, Alice doesn’t appreciate Nedra’s input.  

Wife 22 is an intelligent and clever book filled with funny, laugh-out-loud and poignant scenes, as well as sad passages, heated moments and great dialogue.  Melanie Gideon understands how disconnected couples, family members and friends can become as time rushes by and days turn into weeks which turn into months and then the years fly by.  Gideon also displays an amazing understanding of people and their instinctual behavior whether they're 12 or 40, male or female as shown through a fascinating cast of characters. Peter, Alice's son, for example, is great character. He is sweet, funny, silly and a little quirky. Clearly he is his mother’s son and as such, loves and understands his mom very well.   Zoe, on the other hand seems very true to life as she's instantly recognizable by any parent of a teenager: a girl who needs her privacy and is almost perpetually crabby.  They, like many of the other characters creatted by Gideon round out this book and make the terrific reading experience it is.

 I read this book last month thanks to Andrea at Great Thoughts and meant to review it much sooner, following a great Twitter book club meeting attended by Melanie Gideon, who added some great thoughts and ideas to our discussion.  But, as tends to happen, life got in the way and illness and health problems have prevented me from blogging regularly (but not from reading, haha!).  Something I suspect Alice would understand or, at least, sympathize with my inability to get on-line!  But Wife 22 stayed with me all this time.  I found it easy to recall the story and Alice, her family and friends because the story is so relatable and current.  I highly recommend this book to all anyone who enjoys great books about real characters and, especially women whether you're a mother, daughter, friend or all three.  Oh, and when you read this book, I expect you'll never think of a Hostess snack cake quite the same way ever again!    

1 comment:

  1. I just picked this up at the library book sale, but I like this cover a lot better! I hope your health is improving.