Wife 22 Review
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To the young and hopelessly romantic, marriage is a sparkly blur of candlelit dinners and cuddling on the couch—a lifetime of passion and excitement. Of course, those of us who’ve been there for a while understand that that’s not exactly the case. It’s more often a blur of work, household chores, and hurried dinners. And often, after years of marriage, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the to-do lists of everyday life and lose sight of what really matters. Sometimes, we just need a wake-up call—but the one that Alice Buckle gets in Melanie Gideon’s Wife 22 could prove to be her undoing.

Years ago, Alice dreamed of being a famous playwright. Instead, she works as a part-time drama teacher for elementary school kids before returning home to care for an emotionally distant family. Her teenage daughter has completely shut her out, her preteen son is most likely gay (which Alice accepts and is subtly trying to encourage), and her husband, William, acts more like a roommate than a spouse. Sure, her life isn’t a tragedy; it’s just not all that rewarding.

When Alice is invited to participate in a confidential survey about marriage, she finds herself reveling in the opportunity to be open and honest about her lackluster life. As Wife 22, she can express her deepest feelings and frustrations without being judged. But as she continues to confide in her assigned researcher, Researcher 101, their relationship begins to turn into something else.

Wife 22 is a delightfully modern work of middle-aged chick lit. A random compilation of narrative, emails, Facebook updates, online chats, and Google searches, it tells its story in the same way that most of us do—in blurbs and snippets and sometimes in scenes—making it instantly relatable.

The main character, too, is one whom readers (especially female ones) will easily understand: a woman whose identity sometimes seems to revolve around other people. It’s not that Alice has an unhappy life. She loves her husband and kids. She doesn’t mind her work. She even has some close friends who love her and support her. Sometimes, though, she just feels a bit…numb. And that’s a feeling that most of us can understand. We tend to be so busy taking care of the day-to-day details that we often forget about the big picture.

Wife 22, then, offers a light and entertaining albeit realistic look at being a grown-up—at life as a wife and mother, a daughter and friend. As it turns out, life isn’t always as fun or as exciting as we once dreamed it would be—and Alice’s story gives an honest portrayal of one [fictional] woman’s somewhat misguided quest for romance and fulfillment.

Granted, the story isn’t always flawlessly written. Alice’s answers are anything but anonymous as she rambles on about her husband and kids, going into detail and referring to them (and herself) by name. At the same time, the chapters that contain nothing more than a list of her answers—without the questions—can be rather frustrating (though I later discovered that the questions are listed at the back of the book). And not all of the pieces seem to fit together in the end.

Still, if you sometimes wake to realize that you’re stuck in a rut, you’ll enjoy the frank and amusing Wife 22. It’s light enough for a poolside read, but it’s also thoughtful and sincere enough to make you stop and take a closer look at your own big picture.

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