On Thursday, September 12th, the Fixed on Fiction book group met to discuss Melanie Gideon’s Wife 22. Below are some of the comments made during our discussion.
Prior to discussing Wife 22, the group shared some reads they were pursuing outside of the book club selections:
The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Dare Me by Megan Abbott
Moving on to Wife 22, we began the discussion with readers sharing if they liked/disliked the book and how they read this novel (meaning, did they read the book from start to finish and discover the survey questions at the end, or were the questions discovered earlier). The majority of members seemed to enjoy this month’s selection, describing the book as “light, fun, and smart.” Other readers enjoyed the story but found a handful of plot elements a bit unbelievable. In terms of how the book was read, almost everyone discovered the survey questions after finishing the novel, prompting some readers to revisit Alice’s responses with the corresponding questions. One reader stated that she was glad she didn’t know the answers were in the back of the book, the mystery of the unknown questions kept her interested and made the novel a “page turner.”
In terms of our narrator, most readers did find themselves frustrated with Alice at least once throughout the book. Her assumptions regarding Zoe’s eating habits and Peter’s sexuality seemed a bit silly and far-fetched. Perhaps the most irritating part of Alice’s character was her self-involvement. Most members agreed that she did not respond to her children appropriately, specifically when she discovered Zoe’s Twitter account (although the resulting garage-Twitter argument was quite funny).
While most readers enjoyed this novel, some found that a few unbelievable plot points prevented them from really loving the book. For example, Alice was very accepting of Caroline’s interaction with William, while most readers found these exchanges to be a bit suspicious. Many members argued that Caroline’s presence in the home would not have gone over so smoothly in real life (or, IRL, as Alice would say). Readers also found themselves needing to suspend belief with Kelly’s willingness to send Alice the video, Helen’s job offer to William, and William’s ability to pull off the marriage survey as Researcher 101. While some group members struggled to accept these far-fetched plot points, others mentioned that they “went with the flow” while reading and didn’t take these occurrences too seriously.
Of course we spent some time talking about the great reveal- William is Researcher 101 (gasp!) The majority of readers didn’t realize Researcher 101′s identity until Alice made the discovery herself. Most group members found a way to make this scenario impossible, i.e. William was away from the computer while Alice was chatting to Researcher 101. It seemed as though the group had conflicting feelings regarding William’s “deception” in creating the marriage survey. One reader stated that she felt “relieved” upon discovering that William was behind the survey- as she didn’t want to see Alice end her marriage. Another member found William’s actions frustrating and felt like he was playing a dangerous game, meaning his plan could have backfired if Alice had found his behavior to be dishonest or “creepy.” Another reader thought William’s plan was clever and romantic as he tried to speak to Alice in her language (online) and encourage her to revisit their beginnings as a couple.
Lastly, we discussed the novel’s themes. One reader found this book to be a message regarding the value of putting your phone/computer down and living your life in the real world. Another member suggested that this is a novel of life in the 21st century, in which we are all very dependent on technology. This point led to a discussion of how we use Facebook. While some members mentioned that they enjoy Facebook as it is a quick/effortless form of communication, others found that it has become a bragging tool and encourages attention-seeking behavior. Lastly, one member said that this book is a series of “near affairs” (Alice and Williams’s beginnings, Alice’s relationship with Researcher 101, etc.) It seemed as though each reader found a unique message/theme within the novel, resulting in a lively and fun discussion.