Wife 22: A Novelby Melanie Gideon
“A skillful blend of pop-culture references, acidic humor, and emotional moments. It will take its rightful place . . . 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)
Alice has been married to her husband, William, for twenty years. Though she can still remember the first time they met like it was yesterday, these days she finds herself posting things on Facebook that she used to confide to him. So when she’s invited to participate in an anonymous online survey on marriage and love, she finds that all her longings come pouring out as she dutifully answers questions under the name “Wife 22.”
Evaluating her responses is “Researcher 101,” who seems to listen to her in a way that William hasn’t in a very long time, and before she knows it, she finds herself trying hard not to e-flirt with him. Meanwhile, her elderly father is chatting on Facebook, her fifteen-year-old daughter is tweeting, and everything in her life is turning upside down.
Wife 22 is a hilariously funny, profoundly moving, and deeply perceptive novel about the ways we live and love in this technological age, from a dazzling new voice in fiction.
“An LOL Instagram about love in a wired world.”—People
“Vibrant, au courant, and hilarious . . . brilliant!”—Adriana Trigiani
BONUS: This edition includes a Wife 22 discussion guide.
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Read an Excerpt
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.”
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?”
“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.
“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?”
“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, 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?”
“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. 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.”
“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.”
“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.
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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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.
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!
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.
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'
This novel is written in an interesting manner. It is quirky and fun. I was totally unprepared for the ending. It blew me away.
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.
I really enjoyed this book and was able connect to the character and her emotions.
I got through the first 100ish pages before just jumping every few pages to the end. It's an interesting enough story, but Alice is obnoxious and I couldn't get into the Facebook/text/Google language. The story is pretty predictable. I would not recommend this book to a friend.
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
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.
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.
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.
I loved this book; funny, witty , romantic, very clever and modern. A good story line , one close what I have been through. A good read!
If you like reading text message style you will enjoy this book. Where is the fun in this book. Gave up half way through.
I picked this clever book up on audio to listen to in the car. Found the email communications so annoying that i almost gave up. Decided to check the book out of the library instead, but that was worse. Was really confused reading the answers without the questions... Ugghhh! Returned the book and went back to listening while driving. Found myself looking for places to drive to just to keep listening. Loved the book! Enjoyed the questions and the responses. Although the ending was one of the three I had guessed it to be, kept me wondering right up to the end. Definitely recommending it for my book club.