Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon – Book Review

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon
Published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House

Twenty years into their marriage, Alice and William Buckle are more like roommates than lovers. With all the energy that she isn’t putting into her marriage, Alice has a tendency to over-analyze her children’s lives: the son she is sure is gay and in the closet, the daughter she is positive has an eating disorder after being dumped by her boyfriend. It is only this involvement in her children’s lives and throwing herself into her part-time job teaching drama that keep Alice from realizing just how dissatisfied she is. Then in her spam folder, Alice finds an invitation to participate in an anonymous online marriage survey where she is assigned the pseudonym Wife 22, and paired with Researcher 101. As Researcher 101 begins to ask Alice questions about her life, marriage, and courtship, she simultaneously remembers how wonderful her relationship with William was once, and realizes how lacking it is now.

Told through emails, Facebook status updates, Google search results, the marriage study questionnaire, and more traditional prose, Wife 22 is a completely and utterly absorbing¬† book. Gideon has a gift for drawing readers into her characters’ lives and eliciting empathy, regardless of how closely – or not – personal circumstances align with those of the characters. Alice is at times frustrating and is certainly not without her own faults, but she is incredibly sympathetic and understandable.

In addition to the characters who are so realistic and easy to relate to, the format of Wife 22 kept the pages turning. The emails, Facebook status updates, and Google search results are very wisely and judiciously used, so that they add to, rather than detract from the story Gideon is telling. Even more impressive, though, is the use of marriage survey questions. We see only Alice’s responses, and not the questions that Researcher 101 has asked. This is initially disconcerting, but quickly becomes almost addictive, as the reader interprets what she is answering. The questions are included as an appendix at the end of the book and it is hugely instructive to go back after you have finished reading to see exactly what she was answering with every question, but keeping them out of the flow of the story ends up adding a lot to the development of Alice’s character.

Wife 22 is smart, witty, and engaging. I became so lost in Alice’s story that I finished the entire 400 page book in only 24 hours. This story of love and relationship is not to be missed. Very highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham – Book Review

By Nightfallby Michael Cunningham
Published by Picador, an imprint of Macmillan

Peter Harris’s life looks great on the surface. He has a smart, lovely wife, a grown daughter, and a relatively successful art gallery. Of course, his gallery is stuck around relatively successful, unable to break free. Plus, his relationship with his wife Rebecca has grown strained of late, and his daughter will barely speak to him. Into this barely held together veneer comes Mizzie. Mizzie, whose nickname is appropriately short for “mistake,” is Rebecca’s much younger brother, a brilliant but wild young man whose presence disrupts the fragile balance of Peter and Rebecca’s lives.

By Nightfall is a very complex book, one well-suited to discuss with a book club. I’m not sure I really understood Peter and his motivations, and I’m not sure I can without taking it through with other people. The reader is very much inside Peter’s head, which male in such a way that it became almost entirely foreign to me. Because Peter had lost any real connection with Rebecca – or any of the women in the book – there was no female viewpoint, no matter how miniscule, until the absolute end. This made for a novel that I had a difficult time accessing. It was quite readable, technically well-written, but I failed to truly engage, because I failed to truly empathize with Peter.

I suspect I will have more complete thoughts after discussing this with BOOK CLUB today, but for now I leave you with these somewhat unformed thoughts.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, for BOOK CLUB.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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The First Husband by Laura Dave – Book Review

The First Husband by Laura Dave
Published by Viking Adult, an imprint of Penguin

Annie Adams seems to be in a pretty good place: her job as a travel writer sends her all over the world, she has an adorable dog, and she and her live-in boyfriend Nick have been together for five years. Everything seems to be going well – until Nick tells her that they need to have a break, that he might have feelings for a girl he grew up with. After a fair amount of time wallowing in self-pity over the break-up of what she thought was a very steady relationship, Annie puts on her most magical yellow dress, and heads out on the town for a drink and meets charming, thoughtful Griffin, a chef from Massachusetts in LA temporarily. By the end of their three month whirlwind romance, Griffin is proposing and Annie is moving with him to Massachusetts as his wife. Once there, however, she wonders if her marriage is simply a rebound, and if she really belongs in this new life. And, if not, does she still belong in her old life either?

Annie Adams is an immediately relateable character. How often do we ignore the warning signs that our life is no longer what it used to be, surprised to suddenly find that everything has fallen apart? Annie’s life had been relying largely on inertia when Nick introduced his friction. How many of us, when faced with a life-wrenching change, have thrown ourselves immediately into something different, without immediate thought to whether or not it is right for us? And again, how many of us would eventually question that decision, based solely on the fact that it did come after such a drastic change? Is this real? Is it just a rebound? These are the questions that guide Annie’s life in The First Husband, and they do so in an incredibly realistic manner. Nick and Griffin were somewhat less fully fleshed out, but The First Husband takes place so much in Annie’s head, that this seemed like a reasonable choice: Annie is questioning how much she really knows either man, so why should the reader know them any better?

Dave has succeeded in writing a book that is incredibly life-like and that readers can relate to whether or not they have ever been in the exact same situation. Recommended.

Join the conversation July 14th

Laura Dave will be joining the SheKnows Book Club to discuss The First Husband on Thursday, July 14th. All are invited and welcome to participate on the SheKnows message boards.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound.*

Source: Author
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen – Book Review

Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen
Published by Washington Square Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

When Julia’s husband dies, her whole life changes, although not quite the way you might expect. Julia’s incredibly successful, self-made husband Michael suffers a cardiac arrest in the middle of a board meeting and dies for over four minutes. Their marriage has been strained, to say the least, for several years, but it is Michael’s behavior after he is brought back to life that pushes their relationship to the breaking point. After being temporarily dead, Michael decides that he needs to make things right. In his race for the top he stepped on lots of people and did not spend nearly the time he should have with Julia. Hence his split-second decision to sell his company and give all of his money away to charity. Unsure if she even knows her husband anymore, Julia decides that this is all the last straw, although she agrees to give Michael the three weeks he asks for to make it up to her.

I would say that Sarah Pekkanen has done it again, but actually with Skipping a Beat she has done something different – and even more fabulous – than she did with her first book, The Opposite of Me. Everyone who has ever been in any relationship understands things going slowly cold, two people slowly growing apart. It happens in friendships, romantic relationships, and it happens in Michael and Julia’s marriage. The universality of the situation is incredibly appealing about the book, but the story could have ended up trite. Universal can also mean overdone.

I don’t know exactly when Julia became so incredibly real to me, but she absolutely was. Every time she hurt, I hurt; every time she felt hope, I felt hope. Books don’t often make me cry, other than the end of the 5th and 6th Harry Potter books. Skipping a Beat, though, made me sob. For 25 pages straight. That is far longer than I cried during either Harry Potter, and I had spent thousands of pages caring about those characters. I cared about Julia and her marriage to Michael in a way that is rare among the 200+ books I read in a year. Plus there was the fact that I started the book late at night when I was sick and exhausted and finished it less than 12 hours later, because I was just that completely engaged with their story.

I don’t think I can recommend this highly enough.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound | Amazon*

Source: Author’s publicist. This review also makes me eligible in a sweepstakes from the publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Life After Yes by Aidan Donnelly Rowley – Book Review

Life After Yes by Aidan Donnelly Rowley
Published by Avon A, an imprint of Harper Collins

A successful young lawyer, it seems that Quinn’s life should be perfect when her handsome, loving investment banker boyfriend Sage whisks her to Paris for the weekend to propose. Shortly after she tells him ‘yes,’ however, the doubts begin with a dream in which she feels trapped and finds herself at the altar facing three grooms, including her ex-boyfriend and her trainer from the gym. Her doubts, exacerbated by her grief of losing her father in the World Trade Center during 9/11 just a few short months earlier, lead her to be nasty to Sage and drink entirely too much, not to mention flirting too much with other men. It is time for Quinn to really consider what she wants from life, and it won’t be easy.

I’m afraid you all are going to get sick of my raving about books, but here is another one that I L.O.V.E.D. loved.

Quinn’s voice was just so completely authentic that I got completely caught up in her story and finished the entire 300+ page book in one weekend day, staying up far later than I had intended because I couldn’t bear to wait to complete this journey with Quinn. Some of the things she did I very much disagreed with, but I could empathize with how she arrived at every decision. Parts of the basic storyline – girl gets engaged, has doubts, boozes it up – may make “Life After Yes” sound fluffy, but Rowley brought a great deal of depth to Quinn and her storyline. I also thought that the death of Quinn’s father in 9/11 was done very well. It brought an added layer of gravity to the story, but I never felt that Rowley was using it in a way that felt manipulative of people’s 9/11 sentiments or cheapened the event.¬† Instead it informed Quinn’s character and her actions in very believable ways.

I really loved this book, and very highly recommend it. We will be discussing it with Aidan Donnelly Rowley and the rest of the SheKnows Book Club on Thursday, December 9th 8-11pm Eastern. Plenty of time to grab it and get it read, so I hope to see some of you there!

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

Source: SheKnows Book Club.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.