Culture Street

Books

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

On July 19, 2012

By Sophia Whitfield

Alice Buckle is a long standing member of The Mumble Bumbles – a close knit group of friends who have all lost their mothers. They support each other and commiserate about their lack of motherly advice.

Alice Buckle is 44; teetering on the edge of her 45th birthday, the same age her mother was when she died.  It is her tipping-point year. The Mumble Bumbles are concerned about her, but she assures the group that all is well. Then everything goes terribly wrong.

Her husband, William, loses his job and she discovers his fall from grace has been embarrassingly public. William refuses to talk about the loss of his job and Alice feels frustrated with life. Currently working as an elementary drama teacher, Alice is a frustrated playwright. She is deeply concerned about both her adolescent children, she thinks her son is gay and her daughter has an eating disorder.

After her husband informs her that her life is ‘small’, Alice proceeds to Google search her name with no results.  With no escape from real life she decides to take part in an anonymous survey, ‘Marriage in the 21st Century’ from the Netherfield Centre for the Study of Mental Happiness. She is given the pseudonym ‘Wife 22’ and is assigned an anonymous caseworker ‘Researcher 101’. Alice soon finds herself embroiled in an online romance.

Gideon describes with insight middle age, the addiction to Facebook and the allure of an online community. She highlights the way we can become consumed by our virtual lives, forgetting the first and basic means of communication. Wife 22 is full of Google searches,  Facebook updates, chat logs and email messages.

There is a good deal to love about this book. The constant switch between real and virtual dialogue keeps the book running along apace. Wife 22 is a tender and comic book, cleverly executed.

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