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Wife 22: A Novel Hardcover – May 29, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 316 customer reviews

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Q&A with Author Melanie Gideon

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

A: 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.

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

A: 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.

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

A: 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.

Q: 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?

A: 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--20 years later are the things that drive you absolutely crazy.

Q: 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?

A: 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.

Q: You've said, "Confession is a powerful aphrodisiac." Can you elaborate?

A: 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.


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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition first Printing edition (May 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034552795X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345527950
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (316 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,122,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I read the brief description of Wife 22 but since it was clearly about a woman at an unhappy point in her marriage, I was in.

Alice Buckle is a wife and mother. Her 20 year marriage is sort of lackluster. Her kids are growing up and emotionally away from her. She had dreams of being a playwrite but the one play she did write bombed at the community theater so that was the end of that.

While googling one day (the story starts out with her googling eyelid drooping) she enters Happy Marriage into the search bar. The next thing she knows a marriage survey turns up in her spam folder. She moves it to her Inbox. Once she begins the anonymous survey as Wife 22 she REALLY gets into it with long, thoughtful answers. We learn a lot about her and her early years with her husband. She learns a lot about herself. Unfortunately, so does the Researcher facilitating the survey, resulting in Alice engaging in a somewhat inappropriate verbal and emotional relationship with the Researcher.

I found this story to be very engaging. It was fairly fast paced and the characters were introduced solidly. This is a very modern novel as social media is the thread that binds it. Melanie Gideon uses Facebook status updates, email communications and Facebook Chat along with traditional first person story telling. Some readers might not care for the back and forth of the story telling as they might find it confusing. I enjoyed it. I felt like I WAS Alice checking her Facebook status and always checking for the next email from Researcher 101. I especially enjoyed the answers to the survey questions. Of course the reader is not privy to the questions but reading the answers gives us enough to figure out the questions.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really enjoyed this take on a modern marriage in the throes of middle-aged angst. Alice Buckle is a loving wife, mom and elementary school drama teacher whose insecurities and minor internet obsessions make her a very believable character. Her role in the novel is bolstered by a great supporting cast, including her maybe-gay adolescent son Peter, whose assistance and judgement Alice seeks for all fashion-related decisions; Zoe, her teenage daughter/mini-me who may or may not suffer from an eating disorder; and Nedra, Alice's gay lawyer best friend whose happy and sex-filled relationship torments Alice in this time of midlife crisis.

When Alice is approached to participate in an anonymous online survey about love and marriage, she jumps at the chance. She is soon connected to 'Researcher 101' and, in her role as 'Wife 22', shares intimate details, fears and stories with ease. Her responses to the seemingly random array of questions paint a vivid picture of Alice's early love and romance, and subsequently what she feels is lacking in her current relationship with her husband of 20 years. Alice soon comes to rely heavily on her internet relationship with Researcher 101, craving his communication to the point that she begins to feel the relationship has taken an illicit turn, and even considers relinquishing her anonymity to meet him in person.

How do we keep love and romance alive over time? How do we reconnect with loved ones from whom we've grown distant? How do we balance our kids, our jobs and our sex lives? These are Alice's personal dilemmas, ones with which I imagine many readers can relate. Melanie Gideon's prose is witty, her sense of humor self-deprecating but never cruel - I highly recommend this book as a fun and engaging summer read. I give it 4 1/2 stars, and look forward to reading more from this author.
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Format: Hardcover
Alice Buckle from the very beginning is a spunky, enjoyable main character. She teaches theater at a local elementary school, part time. William and Alice have 2 children, one boy and one girl. William and Alice have been together forever. So maybe the newness has worn off. Alice received an email asking if she would participate in a marriage survey. For $1000, why not!

However, Alice thinks she is falling for Researcher 101 --- Wife 22 to be exact as she is known. In cute little conversations and snippets they converse back and forth through emails and eventually start talking on facebook as well.

Lots will be revealed when you read it, as Alice and William as well search themselves and what they are really looking for. It might just be right in front of them!

Good writing, loved the modern day email and facebook talk! Perfect for these days. Alice was such an endearing character to me, I fell in love instantly.

Thank you to the publisher for a copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review.
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Format: Hardcover
Any woman who has struggled with the restlessness of her mid-40s will recognize herself in Melanie Gideon's new novel, "Wife 22."

But Alice Buckle, wife, drama teacher and mother of two, is squirming on two fronts. Even as she wrestles with mid-life confusion, she finds herself on the doorstep of what she terms her "tipping-point year." When she turns 45, she will have reached the age at which her mother died, and that, she believes, will tip her over into frightening, unknown territory.

Convinced that her marriage has wandered into a territory all its own -- no man's land -- she stumbles upon an online study of marriage in the 21st century. And so, channeling her loneliness, restlessness and fear through survey answers sent into the ether, she finds new meaning. She also finds a virtual relationship with the man handling her case study, Researcher 101.

Gideon has a wonderful eye for the day-to-day life of a household with two teenagers, the numbness to which a 20-year marriage can lead and the relationships of women as friends. She also builds tantalizing romantic suspense, allowing Alice's correspondence with Researcher 101 to tug the reader along into this forbidden but satisfying territory of longing and desire.

The book is an easy read. Chapters alternate between virtual correspondence and traditional narrative, but the pacing is marvelous, the characters all too recognizable. There's a bit of a twist at the end, and that may be my one sticking point with the book. For me, it was a bit tidy and neat after such a strong presentation of just how messy family life can become.
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