Wednesday, September 5, 2012

All-American Wife: A Book Review of Wife 22: A Novel, by Melanie Gideon

All-American Wife: A Book Review of Wife 22: A Novel
by Melanie Gideon.

This novel is about a women caught in mid-life and marriage boredom, who starts filling out an online marriage survey. First of all, I would advise anyone who has a Kindle/eBook reader NOT to buy this book because it doesn't show you the survey questions as the book goes along-- only her answers to the questions, most of which are entirely useless without context. If you have a hard copy of the book you can bookmark the survey and flip back to it each time she answers a question (but even that is annoying, I would imagine-- as was electronically bookmarking the survey questions page and having to go back and forth all the time while reading). In my opinion this choice downgraded the book from 3 stars to 2.5 stars for me, because it was horribly inconvenient for me as the reader and I don't know why the author couldn't have just included the questions before the answers. It was very stupid and frustrating, to say the least.

Anyway, I read this novel for a book club I'm in, and mostly on airplanes and in the airport while traveling. I would say that it was fine for that kind of a book-- "beach read" or "airplane read"-- for entertainment value. It is a quick read which for the most part kept my interest, but I agree with the consensus of my book group that it is superficial and rather cliched.

Sure, there are some good lessons in here for people who are married but that's pretty much because it's the tired-and-true story of a middle-aged woman who has been married for a long time and is bored with it. The book did a include a new twist-- social networking and email communication, etc., which I thought was important because that is how people communicate these days and I don't know why more books haven't explored this theme and medium. At the same time, I think this twist could have been included along with a more solid story line and better developed characters, all of which seemed to fall by the wayside, sacrificed for the sake of the technology inclusion.

I was disappointed with the characters because they had strong potential but the author seemed to forget all about them with her attempt to splatter electronic communication all throughout the book. I mean I guess that goes to show that one of the dangers of getting so caught up in technology and the Internet world is that you forget about your own family and the down to earth relationships you have in real life. So perhaps it was intentional but still, the kids are brought up in the beginning but then forgotten about until mid-way through the book when the daughter starts having all these issues and I as a reader was left thinking, "Um, I would CARE more if I had learned more about this along the way." I also think that is a remark on modern society though (or maybe it has always been this way)-- the teenaged kids are in their own world, the parents are in their own world, and it's hard for the two worlds to intersect and create meaningful connections.

I did think the main character was selfish but relatable... I would say she's a spot-on caricature of a privileged, middle-aged American woman, so, the character was true to type. Some people in my book group thought the husband seemed selfish or clueless, but I don't really agree-- to me he was just a normal guy, doing his thing, but also in his own unique way, which was pretty cool. I thought his character could have been explored more, like all the other characters, but from what I saw of him, he just seemed like an average or better-than-average dude. Yes his career was in crises but whose isn't these days? I don't really blame him for his career malaise and I think he was taking actions to shake things up and create radical change-- which I guess the main character was also doing in her own way, although I was not nearly as sympathetic to her, and she seemed a lot more passive while the husband seemed a lot more active.

There's something else I want to say about this book but I think even hinting at it would be too much of a spoiler, so, I'll stop here. In general I don't think anyone will miss anything if they DON'T read this book, but if they do, they will probably be entertained for a few hours, and then go "meh" and move on with their lives. ;) It's not earth-shattering nor, in my opinion, is it extremely well-written or well-plotted, but it does have some remarks to make on the status of modern American marriages.

Final rating: 2.5 stars (Would be 3 except for the ridiculous choice to only show the main characters' answers to the survey as the book goes along, and leave the survey questions in the back of the book. Grrrrr!)

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