Book Review: Wife 22

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I'm certainly not new to the "chick-lit" genre, but Melanie Gideon's Wife 22 was not the kind of book I usually read. I'm used to the courtship stories, the romances of 20 and 30-somethings way before reality sets in. But reviews for Gideon's novel this year convinced me to take a chance. The result? Eh...

Even though the book clocked in at 400 pages, reading it was a breeze considering that the majority of it takes place in emails, Facebook messages, and Google searches. Alice Buckle is approaching many important milestones: her 20th anniversary with her husband William and her 45th birthday, the very age at which her own mother passed away in an accident.

Coping with her loss, Alice is going through the cliche mid-life crisis. Her career as an elementary drama teacher is flat-lining in this current recession. She's dissatisfied with her marriage, in which she's lucky if they're intimate once a month. She's also struggling with two teenage children: her 12-year-old son Peter, whom Alice is convinced is gay, and her 15-year-old daughter Zoe, who's possibly suffering from an eating disorder.

And as if all of this wasn't enough, Alice is recruited to participate in a research study on marriage. She becomes "Wife 22" and quickly becomes addicted to her online conversations with "Researcher 101." But what happens when a professional relationship evolves into a very personal one? Who is Researcher 101, and is Alice willing to sacrifice everything she's ever known and leave her husband for him?

First off, this was a fascinating story that I believe many spouses can relate to. I enjoyed all the Internet chats, and the overall message that social networking is simultaneously alluring and dangerous. I don't blame Alice for flirting with temptation, because anonymous confession is a rush that practically everyone has experienced.

What I do blame Alice for, however, is her disconnect. It's easy to point fingers at smartphones and social media for creating a society of attention-deficit robots, but I don't think that it's the medium's fault. Alice's personality encourages her to ignore the needs of her husband and children, and she simply uses Facebook as an excuse to shut down.

I'm not saying that I have to like everything a protagonist does, but Alice is just lazy. She expects her life to magically turn around, and doesn't want to put the effort into fixing it. Teenagers get accused of demanding instant gratification, but Peter and Zoe are light-years ahead of their mom in maturity.

There is a twist, and most readers won't be surprised by it (I'm just really gullible), but whether you're fooled or not, it doesn't matter. I felt that the ending was anticlimactic, and it didn't better my opinion of Alice. Maybe I'll be more sympathetic in twenty years, but for now, I'm not impressed by these so-called mid-life crises.