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Wife 22

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Overview

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.

Maybe it was those extra five pounds I’d gained. Maybe it was because I was about to turn the same age my mother was when I lost her. Maybe it was because after almost twenty years ...

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Wife 22

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Overview

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.

Maybe it was those extra five pounds I’d gained. Maybe it was because I was about to turn the same age my mother was when I lost her. Maybe it was because after almost twenty years of marriage my husband and I seemed to be running out of things to say to each other.
 
But when the anonymous online study called “Marriage in the 21st Century” showed up in my inbox, I had no idea how profoundly it would change my life. It wasn’t long before I was assigned both a pseudonym (Wife 22) and a caseworker (Researcher 101).
 
And, just like that, I found myself answering questions.
 
7. Sometimes I tell him he’s snoring when he’s not snoring so he’ll sleep in the guest room and I can have the bed all to myself.
61. Chet Baker on the tape player. He was cutting peppers for the salad. I looked at those hands and thought, I am going to have this man’s children.
67. To not want what you don’t have. What you can’t have. What you shouldn’t have.
32. That if we weren’t careful, it was possible to forget one another.
 
Before the study, my life was an endless blur of school lunches and doctor’s appointments, family dinners, budgets, and trying to discern the fastest-moving line at the grocery store. I was Alice Buckle: spouse of William and mother to Zoe and Peter, drama teacher and Facebook chatter, downloader of memories and Googler of solutions.
 
But these days, I’m also Wife 22. And somehow, my anonymous correspondence with Researcher 101 has taken an unexpectedly personal turn. Soon, I’ll have to make a decision—one that will affect my family, my marriage, my whole life. But at the moment, I’m too busy answering questions.
 
As it turns out, confession can be a very powerful aphrodisiac.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her superb first novel, Gideon (The Slippery Year: A Meditation on Happily Ever After, a memoir) artfully traces the contours of a dull marriage in the age of Facebook. Alice and William Buckle start out happy, but two kids and nearly 20 years later, Alice is bored and desperate for stimulation. When she gets an e-mail asking her to participate in a study about modern marriage, Alice impulsively agrees. Dubbed “Wife 22” and assigned a caseworker called “Researcher 101,” Alice begins answering his probing questions (though readers are usually privy only to her responses), rendering Alice and her marriage in impressionistic strokes vibrantly textured with succinct, revealing details: “15. Uncommunicative. Dismissive. Distant. 16. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”). However, as the confessions pour forth, Alice and Researcher 101’s relationship takes a romantic turn. Comprising a tapestry of traditional narrative, e-mails, Facebook chats, and other digital media, Gideon’s work is an honest assessment of a woman’s struggle to reconcile herself with her desires and responsibilities, as well as a timely treatise on the anonymity and intimacy afforded by digital communiques. Fully formed supporting characters and a nuanced emotional story line make Gideon’s fiction debut shimmer. Agent: Elizabeth Sheinkman, Curtis Brown. (June)
Library Journal
Chick-lit fans over the age of 30 will want to rush home from work, kick off their shoes, mix themselves tart cocktails, and settle down to read this wry debut novel by the best-selling author of The Slippery Year: A Meditation on Happily Ever After. Alice Buckle, a 44-year-old from Massachusetts, has been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for years when she realizes she and her husband have drifted apart while advancing their careers (mostly him) and raising their children (mostly her). Dissatisfied, Alice agrees to participate in a marriage study and, as "Wife 22," is paired with "Researcher 101." After weeks of anonymously sharing increasingly intimate details about her marriage, Alice begins to feel that Researcher 101 understands her better than her own husband does. VERDICT Peppered with Facebook updates, email messages, and chat logs, this book is a skillful blend of pop-culture references, acidic humor, and emotional moments. It will take its rightful place in the chick-lit canon alongside Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary, Anna Maxted's Getting Over It, and Allison Pearson's I Don't Know How She Does It. [See Prepub Alert, 12/12/11.]—Laurie A. Cavanaugh, Wareham Free Lib., MA
Kirkus Reviews
A domestic romantic fantasy for maturing but computer-savvy Bridget Jones fans, Gideon's first adult novel (The Slippery Year, 2009) concerns a wife torn between her uncommunicative, grumpy husband and the charming stranger she flirts with online. Alice Buckle is about to turn 45, her mother's age when she died, and feels so at sea that she's been avoiding her motherless women support group. It doesn't help that her marriage to ad exec William has hit a rocky stretch. He's always been a still waters running deep kind of guy, but since his demotion at work--for erratic behavior during a presentation for an erectile dysfunction product--he has become less communicative than ever. Alice also worries about her children: Is 12-year-old Peter gay? Has 15-year-old Zoe developed an eating disorder after being dumped by her first boyfriend, who happens to be the son of Alice's best friend Nedra, a gay divorce lawyer? So when Alice receives an online invitation to participate in an online survey of long-married women, she signs on. Answering the survey questions posed by an anonymous but empathetic researcher gives Alice an opportunity to re-examine the evolution of her marriage from its steamy beginnings. The set-up also allows the plot to unfold through questionnaire answers, emails and texts, as well as scenes of theatrical dialogue--although her only produced play bombed, Alice remains a playwright at heart. Supposedly following its rules of anonymity, Alice keeps the survey a secret from William although she has no compunction about telling Nedra. Irked by William's apparent cluelessness, Alice carries on an increasingly intense flirtation with her researcher. Glued to her smart phone, she practically ignores her family and her myopic self-centeredness begins to grate. By the end, Alice becomes downright unattractive, undeserving of the happiness that the genre typically grants. Nevertheless, women of a certain age will find her escapades breezy fun, especially since the William character is blatantly intended to bring Colin Firth to mind.
Heller McAlpin
This modern-day, mixed-media comedy of manners is as up-to-the-minute as your favorite Twitter feed…Wife 22 channels the playful but incisive vibe of Nora Ephron's You've Got Mail. Like Ephron, Gideon is especially adept at puncturing contemporary vanities…In the crowded pool of novels about midlife crises, Wife 22 has the buoyancy of water wings.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher
Advance praise for Wife 22

"Chick-lit fans over the age of 30 will want to rush home from work, kick off their shoes, mix themselves tart cocktails, and settle down to read this wry debut novel.... It will take its rightful place in the chick-lit canon alongside Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, Anna Maxted’s Getting Over It, and Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It." —Library Journal, starred review

"Superb.... Comprising a tapestry of traditional narrative, e-mails, Facebook chats, and other digital media, Gideon’s work is an honest assessment of a woman’s struggle to reconcile herself with her desires and responsibilities, as well as a timely treatise on the anonymity and intimacy afforded by digital communiques. Fully formed supporting characters and a nuanced emotional story line make Gideon’s fiction debut shimmer." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

Wife 22 is absolutely fresh, vibrant, au courant, and hilarious. As you read, you will swear that this deft novelist hacked your phone and unearthed your longtime marital secrets and maternal struggles with a keen ear and an open heart. Brilliant! Melanie Gideon owns the moment with this debut.”—Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of The Shoemaker’s Wife
 
“Refreshing, original, and crackling with energy, Wife 22 is a brilliant, engrossing novel about the way we love and live now. Prepare to be dazzled.”—Elin Hilderbrand, author of Summerland
 
“Absolutely delicious! What Bridget Jones did for single women, Alice Buckle will do for married ones. Melanie Gideon’s Wife 22 is a fabulously funny contemplation of relationships and parenthood in the twenty-first century.”—Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Four Ms. Bradwells and The Wednesday Sisters
 
“Well, isn’t this a fun read! Not only fun, but funny. Not only funny, but wildly inventive. Not only wildly inventive, but poignant. Wife 22 is also wise in matters of the heart. Melanie Gideon could put marriage counselors out of business.”—Elizabeth Berg, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Time I Saw You
 
“The delightful, compulsively readable Wife 22 manages to be both funny and thought-provoking on the eternal question: After many years of marriage, how do two people keep their love vital? Alice Buckle’s hilarious search for greater happiness will resonate with readers of all backgrounds.”—Gretchen Rubin, New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project

Wife 22 is not just clever, it is a funny, wise, and ultimately tender and revealing portrait of contemporary family life, of a marriage, and of a wife and mother and her all-important circle of friends in midlife straits. Every woman who has ever Googled herself, Facebooked her children, or simply wondered, ‘what if?’ will come to cheer and adore this particularly winsome wife.”—Mary Kay Andrews

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345527950
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/29/2012
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 730,795
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Melanie Gideon is the bestselling author of The Slippery Year: A Meditation on Happily Ever After, which was named an NPR and San Francisco Chronicle best book of the year. She is also the author of two young adult novels: Pucker  and The Map That Breathed, both New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, More, Shape, The Times, the Daily Mail, and Marie Claire. She was born and raised in Rhode Island. She now lives in the Bay Area with her husband and son.
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Read an Excerpt

1

April 29

5:05 p.m.

GOOGLE SEARCH “Eyelid Drooping”

About 54,300 results (.14 seconds)

Eyelid Drooping: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia

Eyelid drooping is excessive sagging of the upper eyelid . . . Eyelid drooping can make somebody appear sleepy or tired.

Eyelid Drooping . . . Natural Alternatives

Speak from the chin-­up position. Try not to furrow your brow, as this will only compound your problems . . .

Droopy Dog . . . eyelid drooping

American cartoon character . . . drooping eyelids. Last name McPoodle. Catchphrase . . . “You know what? That makes me mad.”

2

I stare into the bathroom mirror and wonder why nobody has told me my left eyelid has grown a little hood. For a long time I looked younger than I was. And now, suddenly all the years have pooled up and I look my age—­forty-­four, possibly older. I lift the excess skin with my finger and waggle it about. Is there some cream I can buy? How about some eyelid pushups?

“What’s wrong with your eye?”

Peter pokes his head into the bathroom and despite my irritation at being spied on, I am happy to see my son’s freckled face. At twelve, his needs are still small and easily fulfilled: Eggos and Fruit of the Loom boxer briefs—­the ones with the cotton waistband.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I say.

I depend on Peter. We’re close, especially in matters of grooming. We have a deal. His responsibility is my hair. He’ll tell me when my roots are showing so I can book an appointment with Lisa, my hairdresser. And in return, my responsibility is his odor. To make sure he doesn’t exude one. For some reason, twelve-­year-­old boys can’t smell their underarm funk. He does run-­bys in the mornings, arm raised, waving a pit at me so I can get a whiff. “Shower,” I almost always say. On rare occasions I lie and say “you’re fine.” A boy should smell like a boy.

“Tell you what?”

“About my left eyelid.”

“What—­that it hangs down over your eye?”

I groan.

“Only a tiny bit.”

I look in the mirror again. “Why didn’t you say something?”

“Well, why didn’t you tell me Peter was slang for penis?”

“It is not.”

“Yes, apparently it is. A peter and two balls?”

“I swear to you I have never heard that expression before.”

“Well, now you understand why I’m changing my name to Pedro.”

“What happened to Frost?”

“That was in February. When we were doing that unit on Robert Frost.”

“So now the road has diverged and you want to be Pedro?” I ask.

Middle school, I’ve been told, is all about experimenting with identity. It’s our job as parents to let our kids try on different personas, but it’s getting hard to keep up. Frost one day, Pedro the next. Thank God Peter is not an EMO, or is it IMO? I have no idea what EMO/IMO stands for—­as far as I can tell it’s a subset of Goth, a tough kid who dyes his hair black and wears eyeliner, and no, that is not Peter. Peter is a ro­mantic.

“Okay,” I say. “But have you considered Peder? It’s the Norwegian version of Peter. Your friends could say ‘later, Peder.’ There’s nothing that rhymes with Pedro. Do we have any Scotch tape?”

I want to tape up my eyelid—­see what it would look like if I got it fixed.

“Fade-­dro,” says Peter. “And I like your sagging eyelid. It makes you look like a dog.”

My mouth drops open. You know what? That makes me mad.

“No, like Jampo,” he says.

Peter is referring to our two-­year-­old mutt, half Tibetan spaniel, half God-­knows-­what-­else: a twelve-­pound, high-­strung Mussolini of a dog who eats his own poop. Disgusting, yes, but convenient if you think about it. You never have to carry around those plastic bags.

“Drop it, Jampo, you little shit!” Zoe yells from downstairs.

We can hear the dog running manically on the hardwood floors, most likely carting around a roll of toilet paper, which next to poop is his favorite treat. Jampo means “gentle” in Tibetan, which of course turned out to be the complete opposite of the dog’s personality, but I don’t mind; I prefer a spirited dog. The past year and a half has been like having a toddler in the house again and I’ve loved every minute of it. Jampo is my baby, the third child I’ll never have.

“He needs to go out. Honey, will you take him? I have to get ready for tonight.”

Peter makes a face.

“Please?”

“Fine.”

“Thank you. Hey, wait—­before you go, do we have any Scotch tape?”

“I don’t think so. I saw some duct tape in the junk drawer, though.”

I consider my eyelid. “One more favor?”

“What?” Peter sighs.

“Will you bring up the duct tape after you’ve walked the dog?”

He nods.

“You are my number-­one son,” I say.

“Your only son.”

“And number one at math,” I say, kissing him on the cheek.

Tonight I’m accompanying William to the launch of FiG vodka, an account he and his team at KKM Advertising have been working on for weeks now. I’ve been looking forward to it. There’ll be live music. Some hot new band, three women with electric violins from the Adirondacks or the Ozarks—­I can’t remember which.

“Business dressy,” William said, so I pull out my old crimson Ann Taylor suit. Back in the ’90s when I, too, worked in advertising, this was my power suit. I put it on and stand in front of the full-­length mirror. The suit looks a little outdated, but maybe if I wear the chunky silver necklace Nedra got me for my birthday last year it will mask the fact that it has seen better days. I met Nedra Rao fifteen years ago at a Mommy and Me playgroup. She’s my best friend and also happens to be one of the top divorce lawyers in the state of California who I can always count on to give very sane, very sophisticated $425-­an-­hour advice to me for free because she loves me. I try and see the suit through Nedra’s eyes. I know just what she’d say: “You can’t be bloody serious, darling,” in her posh English accent. Too bad. There’s nothing else in my closet that qualifies as “business dressy.” I slip on my pumps and walk downstairs.

Sitting on the couch, her long brown hair swept back into a messy chignon, is my fifteen-­year-­old daughter, Zoe. She’s an on-­and-­off vegetarian (currently off), a rabid recycler, and maker of her own organic lip balm (peppermint and ginger). Like most girls her age, she is also a professional ex: ex–­ballet dancer, ex-­guitarist, and ex-­girlfriend of ­Nedra’s son, Jude. Jude is somewhat famous around here. He made it to the Hollywood round of American Idol and then was booted off for “sounding like a California eucalyptus tree that was on fire, popping and sizzling and exploding, but in the end not a native species, not native at all.”

I was rooting for Jude, we all were, as he made it past the first and second eliminations. But then right before Hollywood he got a swelled head from the instant fame, cheated on Zoe, and then dumped her, thus breaking my girl’s heart. The lesson? Never allow your teenager to date the son of your best friend. It took months for me—­I mean, Zoe—­to recover. I said some horrible things to Nedra—­things I probably shouldn’t have said, along the lines of I would have expected more from the son of a feminist and a boy with two moms. Nedra and I didn’t speak for a while. We’re fine now, but whenever I go to her house Jude is conveniently out.

Zoe’s right hand moves over her cellphone’s keypad at top speed.

“You’re wearing that?” she says.

“What? It’s vintage.”

Zoe snorts.

“Zoe, sweetheart, will you please look up from that thing? I need your honest opinion.” I spread my arms wide. “Is it really that bad?”

Zoe cocks her head. “That depends. How dark is it going to be?”

I sigh. Just a year ago Zoe and I were so close. Now she treats me like she does her brother—­as a family member who must be tolerated. I act like I don’t notice, but invariably overcompensate, trying to be nice for both of us, and then I end up sounding like a cross between Mary Poppins and Miss Truly Scrumptious from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

“There’s a pizza in the freezer, and please make sure Peter is in bed by ten. We should be home soon after that,” I say.

Zoe continues to text. “Dad’s waiting for you in the car.”

I scurry around the kitchen looking for my purse. “Have a great time. And don’t watch Idol without me!”

“Already Googled the results. Should I tell you who gets the axe?”

“No!” I shout, running out the door.

• • •

“Alice Buckle. It’s been entirely too long. And what a breath of fresh air you are! Why doesn’t William drag you to these events more often? But I suppose he’s doing you a favor, isn’t he? Another night, another vodka launch. Ho-­hum, am I right?”

Frank Potter, chief creative officer of KKM Advertising, looks discreetly over my head. “You look wonderful,” he says, his eyes darting around. He waves to someone at the back of the room. “That’s a lovely suit.”

I take a big gulp of wine. “Thanks.”

As I look around the room, at all the sheer blouses, strappy sandals, and skinny jeans most of the other women are wearing, I realize that “business dressy” really means “business sexy.” At least with this crowd. Everybody looks great. So of the moment. I wrap one arm around my waist and hold the wine glass so it hovers near my chin, a poor attempt at camouflaging my jacket.

“Thank you, Frank,” I say, as a bead of sweat trickles down the back of my neck.

Sweating is my default response when I feel out of place. My other default response is repeating myself.

“Thank you,” I say once more. Oh, God, Alice. A trifecta of thanks?

He pats me on the arm. “So how are things at home? Tell me. Is everything okay? The kids?”

“Everybody’s fine.”

“You’re sure?” he asks, his face screwed up with concern.

“Well, yes, yes, everybody’s good.”

“Wonderful,” he says. “Glad to hear it. And what are you doing these days? Still teaching? What subject was it?”

“Drama.”

“Drama. That’s right. That must be so—­rewarding. But I imagine quite stressful.” He lowers his voice. “You are a saint, Alice Buckle. I certainly wouldn’t have the patience.”

“I’m sure you would if you saw what these kids are capable of. They’re so eager. You know, just the other day one of my students—­”

Frank Potter looks over my head once again, raises his eyebrows, and nods.

“Alice, forgive me, but I’m afraid I’m being summoned.”

“Oh, of course. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to keep you. I’m sure you have other—­”

He moves toward me and I lean in, thinking he’s going to kiss me on the cheek, but instead he pulls back, takes my hand firmly, and shakes it. “Goodbye, Alice.”

I look out into the room, at everyone breezily drinking their lychee FiGtinis. I chuckle softly as if I’m thinking of something funny, trying to look breezy myself. Where is my husband?

“Frank Potter is an ass,” a voice whispers in my ear.

Thank God, a friendly face. It’s Kelly Cho, a longtime member of William’s creative team—­long in advertising anyway, where turnover is incredibly fast. She’s wearing a suit, not all that different from mine (better lapels), but on her it looks edgy. She’s paired it with over-­the-­knee boots.

“Wow, Kelly, you look fabulous,” I say.

Kelly waves my compliment away. “So how come we don’t see you more often?”

“Oh, you know. Coming over the bridge is such a hassle. Traffic. And I still don’t feel all that comfortable leaving the kids home alone at night. Peter’s just twelve, and Zoe’s a typical distracted teenager.”

“How’s work?”

“Great. Other than being up to my neck in details: costumes, wrangling parents, soothing spiders and pigs that haven’t learned their lines yet. The third grade is doing Charlotte’s Web this year.”

Kelly smiles. “I love that book! Your job sounds so idyllic.”

“It does?”

“Oh, yeah. I would love to get out of the rat race. Every night there’s something going on. I know it seems glamorous—­the client dinners, box seats for the Giants, passes to concerts—­but it’s exhausting after a while. Well, you know how it is. You’re an advertising widow from way back.”

Advertising widow? I didn’t know there was name for it. For me. But Kelly’s right. Between William’s traveling and entertaining clients, I’m basically a single mother. We’re lucky if we manage to have a family dinner a few times a week.

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Interviews & Essays

A Q&A with Melanie Gideon, author of WIFE 22

Your previous work was your critically acclaimed memoir. What inspired you to turn to fiction, and where did the idea for WIFE 22 originate?

I was sitting in a bar with a friend. We were well into our second glass of wine, when, in researcher mode, I started asking her questions about her marriage. After she invoked a zone of confidentiality I was amazed at how forthright she was willing to be about everything: love, sex, aging, security, happiness and parenting. That's when I knew I was on to something. What if an ordinary wife and mother had the opportunity (and most importantly, the anonymity) to admit what she really thought, felt, wished for and dreamed, regretted and longed for in her life and marriage? Thus WIFE 22 was born.

Who do you think will connect with this novel, and why? Who is Wife 22?

I believe there's a little bit of Wife 22 in all of us, no matter what age, no matter what stage of a relationship you're in: married, single or, "it's complicated!" It's so easy to get stuck in a routine and so hard to get yourself out of it. I think we all yearn to be woken up.

Do you see any similarities between yourself and your heroine, Alice Buckle? Any differences?

Well, like Alice, I am about to celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary with my husband. Unlike Alice, however, I did not receive an email soliciting me to participate in an anonymous online survey on marital satisfaction. And if I did, I would immediately dump it into my trash folder, because I know, after writing this book, how seductive and dangerous the act of confession can be. There are little bits of me in Alice, sure, but Alice is definitely her own person. Also she's nicer than me. And much more fluent with social media.

You pay homage to Joseph Heller and Catch 22 with the title and with a few circumstances Alice faces during the course of your novel. Can you shed a little light on how that came to be and what it signifies?

I think marriage is a sort of Catch 22. It's strange how some of the little quirks and eccentricities of your mate that you found so charming in the beginning—that may have even contributed to you falling in love with them—twenty years later are the things that drive you absolutely crazy.

Many of the novel's characters, especially Alice, engage in social media like Facebook and Twitter. How do you think these methods of communication have changed our lives and the relationships we have with others? How have they changed yours?

I resisted Facebook and Twitter for a long time, and I confess I still find it challenging to post, Tweet or blog. I get incredible stage fright trying to think of something clever to say. People will see it—or worse—ignore it. What if nobody "likes" it? What if nobody comments? It's like middle school every day! Part of what I wanted to explore in WIFE 22 was whether social media brought us closer together or pushed us farther apart. I think it does both. I long for the old days when my husband and son and I would watch a TV show together. I mean really watch it, without our attention constantly flickering to the device on our laps. Watching TV in my household is not a passive act. We're always talking back to the TV, commenting, laughing: that's ridiculous, who told her she could sing? On the other hand I learn things about my husband every day through Facebook. New things. What he's thinking, what he's reading, what he's doing. Facebook allows us to be strangers to one another, to be voyeurs, but in a safe way. There's something about that distance that's titillating.

You've said that "Confession is a powerful aphrodisiac." Can you elaborate?

Anonymous confession? The chance to tell the absolute truth to a stranger? A stranger who doesn't judge, who listens intently, who asks all the right questions? That's very sexy.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Consider the epigraph by E. M. Forster: “Only connect.” How did this inform your interpretation of the novel before and after reading? What is the significance of this quote in a book that so often satirizes our reliance on technology in achieving immediate and constant connectivity?

2. What do you make of the structure of the novel unraveling in part through Alice’s narrative and elsewhere through Google searches, Facebook status updates, and email and text messages? Did you find this made for an organic reading experience, considering how much social media is enmeshed in our daily lives? What did this mode of storytelling reveal about the characters that you might not have otherwise learned? How about the effect of seeing the answers to the marriage survey without first having read the questions? When you arrived at the appendix, did you then match any of the inquiries to their respective responses? Did you find anything surprising?

3. Of her marriage, Alice says that she and William are “floating around on the surface of our lives like kids in a pool propped up on those Styrofoam noodles.” She longs for a deeper connection to her husband, yet struggles to move beyond the monotonies apparent in everyday life. Why, then, does she find it so natural to be candid with Researcher 101?  Do you think it’s that much easier to confess truths about ourselves under a veil of anonymity?    

4. Researcher 101 writes, “Waiting is a dying art. The world moves at a split-second speed now and I happen to think that’s a great shame, as we seem to have lost the deeper pleasures of leaving and returning.” Do you agree that our access to people and information comes at the expense of developing meaningful connections over time, through patience and dedication? Is it possible to cultivate this kind of slow-budding relationship in a digital age, or are we too hardwired for instant gratification?

5. Alice’s answer to the question of what she used to do—“run, dive, pitch a tent, bake bread, build bonfires”—is much at odds with what she does now—“make lunches, suggest to family they are capable of making better choices; alert children to BO.” Why is it that Alice, in William’s words, insists on keeping herself from the things she loves? How does she go about reclaiming these pieces of her former self throughout the novel, and in what ways do you think she’s transformed by the end?  

6. Alice struggles with crossing the threshold into her tipping point year, when she will turn the same age her mother was when she died. She sees this as having to say goodbye; as facing the fact that her mother will never age, never meet William, never watch Zoe and Peter grow. When, if ever, does she begin to perceive this milestone as not so much leaving something behind, but moving into a new future?

7. At one point, Alice recognizes that she “can be overbearing and intense” when it comes to parenting. In what ways do you think her relationships with Zoe and Peter have been affected by her mother’s untimely death? How does Alice’s realization that she has more than just her children enable her to take responsibility for her own life?  

8. Much of the novel deals with Alice’s feelings of displacement, of wandering off the trail and trying to find the lamppost. But whenever she strays, William is always the one to remain on course and bring her back home. Why do you think that in an attempt to save their marriage, he finds it necessary to search for Alice behind a guise and not “in real life?”

9. A principal theme of the novel deals with relationships between mothers and daughters, particularly between Alice and her mother, Zoe, Bunny and the Mumble Bumbles. What do the Mumble Bumbles teach Alice about what being a parent means and how does this uniquely constituted group function in her life in general? Did you detect any instances in which Alice was invited to assume the role of a daughter, and how does she apply the lessons learned therein to her relationship with Zoe?

10. How does Gideon use humor to address the challenges inherent in love, marriage, parenthood, friendship and life?

11. Alice admits that she hopes for a richer life with William—“rich in the ability to feel things as they’re happening, to not constantly be thinking of the next thing.” Do you think she’s achieved this after all?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 83 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(31)

4 Star

(30)

3 Star

(11)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(7)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 83 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 29, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Oh, I absolutely adored Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon! It's clever,

    Oh, I absolutely adored Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon! It's clever, warm, witty, charming, funny, quirky, thoughtful, entertaining - did I say clever? And just - well - just a really good read!

    Alice Buckle has been happily married for over twenty years, but lately finds herself wondering about many things - her children, her health, her job and more, but most notably her relationship with her husband. They seem to be drifting apart. Or is it just settling into mid life together?

    "I know roommate is a taboo word, but here's a thought: what if being roommates is the natural stage of the middle part of marriage? What if that's the way it supposed to be? The only way we can be while getting through the long, hard slog of raising kids and trying to save money for retirement and coming to terms with the fact that there is no such thing as retirement anymore and we'll be working until the day we die?"

    When the opportunity to make $1000 participating in an online relationship survey appears in her inbox, Alice decides to participate. For anonymity's sake, she is labeled as Wife 22 and paired with Researcher 101.


    Gideon utilizes many different methods to tell Alice's story. Google search results, Twitter and Facebook postings, emails and the answers to the survey - without the questions. (Now they are listed in the back of the book. I thought about flipping back and forth but found it more fun to discern from the answer what the question might have been.) As Alice continues the survey, the professional lines between herself and Researcher 101 become blurred and Alice has to make a choice about the direction she wants her life to go....

    Ahh, where to start? I loved Alice Buckle - the way her mind worked, her actions, her insecurities, her failures, her successes and more. She just seemed to be such a 'real' person. Gideon's cast of supporting characters is no less captivating. They're all equally well drawn, but Peter, her twelve year old son, was a stand out for me.

    Employing the online excerpts was a clever way to expand on Alice's story. Gideon is a very funny woman - I found myself laughing out loud many times. And stopping to think many times as well - Wife 22 explores married life with a keen eye.

    Highly recommended - I predict this one showing up on lots of summer reading lists.

    38 out of 39 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 29, 2012

    I read this book looking for a fun read. And that is what

    I read this book looking for a fun read. And that is what I got! You won't be disappointed.
    It is a story of a family, specifically the wife, Alice. After being married for so long she and her husband are seemingly drifting apart. And she is questioning all her choices.
    There is a little mystery woven into the story that only adds to Alice's dilemma.
    Looking for a relaxing read that will keep you engaged? This is it!

    22 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2012

    I really liked this book

    I found this book in the USA Today as a must read for summer. I was looking for something different for a quick read. What a great surprise this book was. The characters were real life people, I could relate to. The plot was something most of us experience after several years of marrige. It made me think back on my life, how I met my husband, how I want my kids to grow up and how I love my life through good and bad. It was super and I will recommend it to my friends looking for a beach read.

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 3, 2012

    I was lucky to receive an early copy of Wife 22 from Random Hou


    I was lucky to receive an early copy of Wife 22 from Random House and I really enjoyed it! Alice has a lot going on as she nears the age of her mother when she passed away. Her husband is having a little bit of a mid-life crisis at work, she is not feeling like her marriage is so great anymore, her daughter and son are getting older and both have their own issues (or are they issues that Alice just thinks they have), and then she decides to join a research survey about marriage. This is when things get a little more complicated. There is so much humor in this book, but there also a lot of truth and so much that women can relate to, both younger and older than Alice's character. Honestly Alice annoyed me a little bit now and then because she was being so negative and not looking at all the wonderful things about her life, but she redeems herself in the end I guess you could say. This is a quick read and one that many can identify with!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 16, 2012

    An OK easy read

    Wife 22 is a fun and unique story about a wife, Alice Buckle, and her family and their life in the 21st century. Although I didn’t love this book, I didn’t completely dislike it either. My biggest issue was the fact that the answers to the survey questions were given in the chapters, but the actual questions were in the back of the book. It was very frustrating to have to keep flipping to the end to see what question she was answering. If this were an e-book, I would’ve probably given up. Why not just put the questions with the answers together? Another issue I had was that I just couldn’t connect with the main character, Alice. Although I’m around the same age, married and have teenage kids, I just couldn’t relate to or accept her character. There were several times I just wanted to jump in and give her shake and say ‘What are you doing?’ I found Alice to be a weak and dull character. The story revolves around an online marriage survey that Alice agrees to participate in. The questions relate to her personal life, married life and family. Alice was a writer, and most of her answers read like a script, very descriptive. I enjoyed the questions; they even had me thinking about my own life, and caused several conversations with my husband. That’s partly why I didn’t understand how they had the reverse effect on Alice and her husband. I wanted her to be more assertive and wanting to rekindle her marriage, especially after reading some of her answers to the questions. Instead of focusing on her marriage, she started up a flirty, yet friendly, anonymous relationship with the survey researcher. I just can’t help it, it drove me crazy. I guess I just have a strong opinion of marriage. As for her children – well, Alice was convinced that her son is gay, but he just doesn’t know it yet. She wants to be supportive of him, so she’s convinced herself of it, and discusses it with everyone. She also thinks her daughter has an eating disorder, so she just sits back and watches her and waits for any symptoms. Having kids of my own, I know how the drama and problems with kids change daily, but I felt that she (Alice) was just creating them on her own. Again, I just couldn’t relate to the issues she was bringing on. What I did like was the writing and format. I enjoyed the facebook posts and google searches. I thought this was unique and relevant to today’s way of life. The ending was okay, but lacking. It didn’t ‘WOW!’ me, like I was hoping. Overall, it was a fun and quick read, but because of my own personal values and way of life, I found it rather disappointing. I would NOT recommend this to be read as an e-book. If you like chick-lit and your open-minded when it comes to family and marriage, you would probably enjoy this. It's a quick and easy 'beach read'

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2012

    Great easy read

    It is a good story that is easy to read although it was predictable.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 3, 2012

    I really enjoyed this book. I did have it figured out before I

    I really enjoyed this book. I did have it figured out before I got to the end, but that was ok. Sometimes getting there is half the fun. It was an easy read that almost all 40+ women can relate to.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2012

    Cute

    The perfect beach book. A little cliche, but very easy to read...worth picking up.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2012

    Loved it! Got the flu and was too sick to get to the library so

    Loved it! Got the flu and was too sick to get to the library so I purchased it for the ipad. It was such a lovely way of recuperating, although now that I finished it I feel bereft. I enjoyed getting to know Alice so much I feel as if we are chums and she had to go away :)
    Also loved the writing style and the way Gideon used techonolgy text to represent the situation.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2012

    Fun Read

    This novel is written in an interesting manner. It is quirky and fun. I was totally unprepared for the ending. It blew me away.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2012

    Not what I expected!

    Not a fan of this book. It will keep your interest. I finished it in one night. I found the whole FB, cell phone communications annoying. The marriage questions were good ones. I just felt let down and sad after reading the book.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2014

    Kevin

    Storms in. I grab Chuck by the front of his shirt with my left hand and punch him in the mouth with my right hand

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2014

    Rose

    She came walking in a shorts that showed her a.s.s and a bandaue top.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2014

    Lace

    "Chuck?"

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2014

    Predictableap , but entertaining

    Picked this book up at the grocery store for 2.50 and it was worth that. 11? Probably not. Fast read, yet odd formatting inn
    Some parts. May be hard for some readers to understand. Overall fairly original yet completely predictable.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2014

    Erica

    Gtgtb

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2014

    Chuck

    Yeah baby

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 6, 2014

    Fast read--highly engaging!

    I really enjoyed this book. It was fast paced and immediately captured my attention. the book centers around a middle-aged woman who 'accidentally' participates in an online survey. Every few days, more questions arrive via email, forcing her to evaluate her life, her relationships and the direction she is headed. It's a great tool to evaluate one's own life! this would be a great summer read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2013

    Qweriurf hdguyhuukjiinb

    Yh

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

    Boring!

    I got to page 150 and gave up. To me it didn't go anywhere. I got sick of reading emails and felt I knew where it was all going. I love to read and hate to waste my time on book that cannot hod my interest.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 83 Customer Reviews

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