Day 592: Literary Wives! Wife 22

Cover for Wife 22Today is another meeting of Literary Wives, where a group of bloggers read and discuss depictions of wives in fiction.

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I guess by definition chick lit is predictable, so perhaps it is unfair to criticize Wife 22 because I could tell where it was going before it got there. Still, I do criticize it for that, although it is well written, has funny, believable dialogue, and is quite enjoyable to read.

Alice Buckle is feeling a little dissatisfied with life. She has a handsome husband, but he has seemed withdrawn of late. She is often at loggerheads with her fifteen-year-old daughter, although she is very close with her younger son. She enjoys her work as a drama teacher at an elementary school. Still, the spark is gone between her and her husband.

She is invited by email to take part in a survey about marriage. To maintain anonymity, she is assigned a login of Wife 22 and a caseworker, Researcher 101. She finds it exciting to have a harmless secret and cathartic to answer the questions.

But it isn’t too long before the two are emailing each other outside the survey. Alice feels as if Researcher 101 really listens to her and understands her. Soon, she is fighting to keep herself out of an emotional affair. The situation is made more difficult because her husband William has abruptly lost his job.

I liked all the characters in this novel except the one I wasn’t supposed to like. However, I seldom read chick lit and again, I felt that this novel was predictable.

Literary Wives logoWhat does the book say about wives or about the experience of being a wife? In what way does this woman define “wife”—or in what way is she defined by “wife”?

I have to admit this portrait of a modern wife is more well rounded than we have seen in some other books. Alice is a failed playwright—her one produced play was a flop—but she really enjoys her job working with children. As a mother, she is actively engaged with her children, although inclined to worry unnecessarily and feel inadequate. Her relationship with her husband is friendly but a bit distant. When she tries to feel him out about emotional issues, he is abrupt and dismissive. In this regard, she is needy, letting a feeling of being unloved and inadequate prevent her from dealing honestly with her husband. I’m not sure, though, that any of this says something about being a wife. I feel as if this novel comments more on marriage itself and what can happen to it if it’s allowed to grow stale. There are problems between Alice and her husband, but her husband also has his own troubles that Alice is too preoccupied to pay attention to.

The Wives

Be sure to read the reviews and comments of the other wives!

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15 thoughts on “Day 592: Literary Wives! Wife 22

  1. Cecilia October 6, 2014 / 8:38 am

    I felt the same way about the ending and the book overall (predictable but overall enjoyable read). I had always sworn myself off of chick lit but after this book I realized that I could enjoy it, if I pick the right title and if it came at a good point in my reading.

    • whatmeread October 6, 2014 / 8:39 am

      Yes, I think for what it was, it was just fine. I am just wary of chick lit.

  2. Ariel Price October 6, 2014 / 8:42 am

    I agree – I thought it was super predictable, but all in all I enjoyed it. I think it made a good addition to our series and discussion! I think what bothered me was the fact that Alice doesn’t take any initiative. She puts all of the pressure on her husband to “come and find” her. And he does, which is super sweet, but it says that keeping a marriage happy is all the husband’s responsibility.

    • whatmeread October 6, 2014 / 8:43 am

      That’s a very good point. I didn’t really think of that. I did think that she was so preoccupied she wasn’t really thinking much of him at all.

  3. Carolyn O October 6, 2014 / 6:48 pm

    Sigh. Predictably pleasant, and yes, probably better than other books in the same category.

    Is there a men’s version of chick lit? I wish we could rename this whole genre “light reading” so that it wouldn’t have the “chick lit”/”women’s fiction” connotation that (a) it’s only for women and (b) it’s all that women want.

  4. Lynn October 6, 2014 / 9:24 pm

    Hah! I really didn’t think of this as chick lit. 🙂 (Perhaps it’s my age… :)) I agree it was “light reading,” Carolyn, though I think I was able to extract a bit more personal connection to it than the rest of you. Again, perhaps age? I have “been there, done that” with raising children and watching as my marriage relationship became more and more disconnected, so for me there were salient points that struck home. It was a good read. Can’t remember who suggested it, but I agree that it was a good addition to our list. Ariel, I love your comment about the husband’s responsibility! Guess I view it as whoever needs to make the effort should make it at the appropriate time to keep a relationship going, and frankly, Alice had way too much stress, so maybe this was his time to give 100% effort, but next time, she’ll be the one to do that.. Great discussion!!

    • whatmeread October 7, 2014 / 7:35 am

      I think I might be older than you, Lynn, although I don’t know that for sure. Maybe it’s a little unfair to call this chick lit, as that seems to be mostly about shopping. And it did try to say something about marriage and parenthood and self.

      • Lynn October 8, 2014 / 7:29 am

        Oh, I think each reader has their own definition of chick lit. I just connected with it enough to feel as if it was a bit more serious than that I guess. We will need to compare birthdates, Kay!! 😄

      • whatmeread October 8, 2014 / 7:42 am

        It is a little more serious than chick lit, but it had a chick lit feel to me. She doesn’t really seriously examine any of these marital problems, which would make it seem less like chick lit.

      • Lynn October 8, 2014 / 9:22 am

        That makes total sense and I agree, the ending was a bit “too Pollyanna-ish,” as one of my book club members commented on our discussion of A Single Thread by Marie Bostwick. 🙂 Interestingly, I have yet to read Trollope, though I own at least one of her books… Will have to move her up on the TBR list!

      • whatmeread October 8, 2014 / 11:34 am

        I like her most of the time. I think one of my favorites by her was made into a Masterpiece a few years ago: The Rector’s Wife. I have to say that some of the covers of her books make them look like chick lit, but they are more serious than that. I did not like her Sense & Sensibility, though. I thought it didn’t really add anything to the original novel or make you look at it in a different way.

      • whatmeread October 8, 2014 / 8:11 am

        I’m thinking about this more because I’m reviewing a book today that isn’t chick lit but misses being a thoughtful examination of a family’s issues because of its nice, wrapped up ending. I’m thinking that one of the things that makes me put Wife 22 into the chick lit category instead of categorizing it more as a contemporary novel examining issues is its ending that is all neatly wrapped up. Does that make sense? As a contrast, any of Joanna Trollope’s books, which examine different issues in modern family life, feel more considered. They are written from the point of view of women, but they are definitely not chick lit.

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