For fans of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary and Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It comes an irresistible novel of a woman losing herself . . . and finding herself again . . . in the middle of her life.
When Alice Buckle, who has been married to William for nearly twenty years, receives a survey in her e-mail from the Netherfield Center for the Study of Marital Happiness, she is in the doldrums. She loves her husband but they’ve grown distant, she is bored with her job, and her adolescent children need her less now. And she has reached the age at which her mother died. So as she idly begins answering the questions, she finds herself baring her soul in an anonymous survey she never even intended to respond to. As she struggles, she realizes it has been years since anyone asked deep, serious questions of her, and really listened to her answers. Soon her entire life as she knows it is called into question. (Summary provided by Big Honcho Media.)
Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon captivated me for an entire afternoon. I was immediately drawn to Gideon’s story of Alice Buckle and the marriage survey she begins secretly filling out in the midst of a slump in her marriage. Gideon’s use of Facebook Statuses, Tweets, emails, and even one hilarious, fake tabloid article as literary devices give the book a modern twist.
As Alice’s relationship with her husband grows distant and he begins to seem like a stranger rather than the man she married, she begins to take the survey seriously and uses it to measure the state of her marriage. She soon finds that her marriage may be in grave danger of falling apart and develops an inappropriate email and Facebook relationship with the man in charge of the survey known to her only as Researcher 101. Gideon’s writing made me literally wince as I was reading scenes where Alice walked the fine line between playful banter and an adulterous affair with Researcher 101.
Marriage is a constant theme throughout the novel. There are happy, near perfect relationships as well as marriages that are in deeper trouble than Alice’s portrayed as a running plot point. It was quite interesting as a reader to view Alice’s marital problems in comparison to the relationships of the peers she surrounded herself with. Gideon is skilled at using the actions of supporting characters to subtly point out both the shortcomings and strengths of Alice. Alice Buckle is one of the wittiest and most earnest heroines I have encountered in contemporary fiction. I highly recommend Wife 22.
At the heart of the book is the actual survey that Alice fills out though out the story. The questions she answers help reveal a poignant story behind a marriage derailed. The full survey is included in the back of the book and I have been more than tempted to fill out the survey on my own. Melanie thought it might be fun for each herself and each blogger on the tour to answer one question from the survey from Wife 22.
The question Melanie and I were assigned for this stop on the tour was:
If you had to describe marriage to an alien that just arrived on earth, what would you say?
My Answer: This is a tough question, because I’m not sure how even basic communication with an alien would go down. In a perfect scenario, the alien would be like Mork from Ork and have a relative understanding of the English language. In a not so perfect scenario, the alien might shoot my head off with laser beams before I had a chance to have a marriage discussion. So, I’m just going to go with the Mork scenario. I would be like Mork there is this thing called marriage. It is when a man and a woman or a man and another man or a woman and another woman join together as a permanent couple to live together for the rest of their lives. At this point Mork would probably exclaim, “Shazbot!” I would calm him down by explaining the man and woman are not literally welded together and made into one human, but they just kind of live in the same house. They live in the same house because they love each other and don’t want to be apart. This union I would explain would sometimes result in children. I would stress most of all that people get married because of love. I would then quote a few lines from my favorite love poem to Mork:
Many things that bother other people never bother them.
They have their five children and they are a couple.
A pair of birds that call to each other and satisfy.
- From “A Couple” by Carl Sandburg
Then Mork would do that thing where he bends over and shows his ass and the moment would be over.
Melanie’s Answer: Do not try this at home. Only kidding. Just the other day I got an email from a reader regarding her marriage which is what I would relay to the aliens because it’s so beautifully put.
“Well, I do not find anything that I would change in my husband – we have been married 46 years and still consider our marriage the best decision we ever made. We are both easy-going and find little fault with each other and if we did, we would not express it to each other.”
That last line is profound and I wonder if that isn’t the secret to marriage right there.
The next stop on the Wife 22 tour will be Thursday, May 31 over on At Home With Books . Be sure and check it out!
Below is the book trailer for Wife 22:
Many thanks to Big Honcho Media, Melanie Gideon, and Ballentine Books for including me on the Wife 22 tour.
FTC Disclosure: I received a complementary copy of this book for review. Also, I receive a small commission for any purchases made by clicking through the Amazon links on this site.