Friday, October 3, 2014

Wife 22

"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."

   Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon was quite the thought-provoking novel for me.  I was reading it on what turned out to the last vacation my husband (from whom I am now separated) would take together.  But, rest assured, the novel isn't to blame for that.  But the story of a woman who is thinking about her marriage, and examining why she got married, how she and her husband got together, and where they'd come to years later, resonated strongly with me.  Told from the wife's perspective as she worked her way through the Marriage questionnaire, it was sweet and charming and poignant.  It gave me a lot to think about.  And I think anyone who is married, or who has ever been married, or who isn't but is fascinated by the complexities of marriage, would be intrigued and entertained by this novel.  Me, I loved it.   

ADDED AFTER POSTING:  I was thinking about this book and wondering whether my view of it was affected by the time in my life that I read it, so I just went back and read it again.  And I was quite happy to find that I liked it just as much the second time.  I'd forgotten a lot about this book: how chapters start with funny bits from the narrator's google searches; how the story is interspersed with Alice's answers to the questionnaire questions which reveal so much about her; how Alice's struggle to connect with her teenaged children feels so real; and most of all, how the biggest theme is how important it is in a marriage for each partner to truly see and hear the other.

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