I just finished Melanie Gideon’s novel – my first encounter with her work, having not read her memoir or her young adult fiction. She’s lots of fun, and Wife 22 is the perfect summer read.
It’s the story of Alice Buckle, a 40 something wife and mother of two, whose life has taken a downward turn. Her husband has lost his job at the ad agency and distanced himself from her. Her son may or may not be gay and she’s constantly trying to figure out how to ease his supposed coming out. Her daughter may or may not have an eating disorder with an ex-boyfriend who may or may not be stalking her. And her work as the drama teacher at school isn’t as satisfying as it used to be, given her own frustrations as a playwright. Into this mix comes the opportunity for Alice to volunteer to take an online survey about marriage. Complications ensue. Not only does she find the experience of unburdening herself to an anonymous researcher a turn-on, but she begins to fall for the researcher himself – and he for her.
What’s especially entertaining about this setup is that much of the novel is written in the shorthand of social media, since the questionnaire is completed online, Alice’s exchanges with her researcher are almost exclusively on Facebook and she’s constantly googling herself/people/subjects just as we all do. Her style has been compared to that of Helen Fielding in the Bridget Jones books and I can see the parallels. It all makes for an engaging, fast-paced read with surprising insights about marriage and a nice twist at the end.