What I am Reading – Wife 22

A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” — John Steinbeck

Facebook has become one of the most polarizing forces of our time. People are convinced that society is either being completely connected, or destroyed by the use of social media. No doubt advanced degrees are being earned from dissertations built around it as I type this. I have found almost no one who is either neutral or unaware of it.

Alice Buckle, the heroine of Melanie Gideon’s novel, Wife 22, is lonely. Alice feels that she is becoming invisible. She worries that her marriage to William, an advertising executive, is growing stale. Their sex life certainly has. She begins to realize that most of their communication is now taking place on Facebook through comments, likes, and chat.

Shortly after Alice conducts a Google search on “Happy Marriage”, a request turns up in her email from the Netherfield Center asking her to participate in an anonymous survey examining the state of marriage in the 21st century. Alice is in, and Wife 22 is born.

The novel is based around what Alice, as Wife 22, reveals to Researcher 101. Their relationship moves from email to Facebook where each sets up a page using the names of fictional literary characters to meet up and chat.

I don’t enjoy books consisting of strings of email messages. However, I found Wife 22 to be an engaging novel containing enough actual prose between the email messages and Facebook postings to keep me reading.

Gideon’s characters are good. It would be hard not to like William, who is fighting his own midlife demons. Nedra, Alice’s best friend, provides the voice of reason as she pulls Alice’s head down from the clouds where it usually floats.

This is a light-hearted book but if you take a second look, it does ask deeper and somewhat disturbing questions. Are we becoming disconnected? Is communicating with the people we love who live in the same house or city with us through social media a good thing? As a writer, I admire Melanie Gideon’s clever use of the tools of social media to create both a good story and to prod the reader to ask those questions.

Last night I went to out to dinner with my husband. We did not have our phones with us. At the table next to us two young women were sitting across from each other, busily texting. I wondered if it was to each other. Either way, they were not talking.

Read Wife 22. If you are on Facebook, you will enjoy it. If you are not, it will give you more ammunition.

Get off Facebook and read it.