Today is another meeting of Literary Wives, where a group of bloggers read and discuss depictions of wives in fiction.
* * *
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 She has a handsome husband, but he has seemed withdrawn of late.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.
What 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.
Be sure to read the reviews and comments of the other wives!