Monday, May 21, 2012

CBR4 #20 - Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

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.

Received an ARC of this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program

Continuing with a recent theme of marriage, this book takes an interesting approach to describing how a "lifeless" marriage  can be saved in the end.  The chapters are very conversational sometimes causing rereading, and short with a mixture of prose, Facebook posts and answers to the questionnaire. I definitely found myself bookmarking the questions included in the questionnaire in order to understand the context of how Alice, Wife 22, was answering them.

I was surprised at the lack of confidence Alice had overall in the book and she was lucky to have very strong female friends to support her.  The back story of William and her was cleverly disclosed through the answers to the questionnaires.  I liked the focus on the family with the jobs and life events more as subplots.

The characters in this book are very approachable and relateable.  For the first time in a while, I found myself tearing up at the end of a book and of course it was on my evening bus commute.