Melanie Gideon helps make life more fun and less ho-hum.
“Wife 22” is Gideon’s first novel for adults, and a wild ride into comedy.
She just might encourage wives and mothers, husbands and fathers to settle down, count to 10 and behave in a totally ridiculous manner that proves how stupid love can be, but also demonstrates how much couples do care about saving their marriage.
Alice Buckle can sense that her marriage is sliding downhill, or so she thinks.
Her husband, William, has become more and more distant. He often clams up and becomes upset as Alice attempts to get him to talk.
Alice, in turn, gets good and mad. She doesn’t understand what could be troubling her husband whom she has loved for many years.
Their children, Peter and Zoe, struggle with their own growing-up dilemmas, but are not so young and immature that they are blind to their parents’ freakish behavior.
However, one thing that seems constant is how—as a family—they depend on each other. Mother and kids tell jokes and love spicing it up by throwing in sarcastic comments that would make other household family members blush.
Dad, too, can be dangerously fun, but it goes way off course and the fun turns into shouting matches, bold proclamations, accusations and almost unforgivable foray.
Alice, 44 and self-conscious of her age, also has a low self opinion. She stands in front of the mirror, not admiring her looks, but adding to her age by frowning and poking at her eyes and face.
She practically ‘attacks’ Peter for not informing her of her current, sagging appearance. She tugs at her drooping eyelid and hopes he will say something sweet and reassuring.
After awhile, he takes his mom off guard by telling her “...I like
your sagging eyelid. It makes you look like a dog.”
Peter explains that his mother’s eyelid looks like their 2-year-old mutt, Jampo, a half Tibetan spaniel, “half God-knows-what-else”-those are Alice’s words.
Of comfort to Alice are the 100-or-so kids, grades kindergarten through fifth, who make up the dramatics class at a California school known as Kentwood Elementary.
I still find one particular passage from this novel as humorous as all get out: a fourth-grader, in all seriousness and very professional, tries to style Alice’s hair. The girl fluffs up her teacher’s hair, sighs, shakes her little head, then tells her there is nothing she can do with it and to just face facts, that styling her hair is hopeless.
Alice’s husband, William, is on staff of a major advertising agency of which he is immersed physically, mentally, emotionally and soulfully. Unfortunately, he’s booted out of his position and a woman takes over.
Through all the hard times, miscalculations and misunderstandings, Alice, who is frustrated, discovers an online source, Netherfield Research Center, that seems like a promising solution to her marital un-bliss.
She’s cautious, but becomes convinced that the research center, which is supposed to offer advice and a good listening ear, is legit. Thus, a two-way online adventure begins between Researcher 101 who is assigned to “Wife 22” — Alice’s code to protect her identity.
The researcher and Alice send e-mails back and forth. Alice finds herself opening up to the researcher who not only asks loads of questions—90 to be exact—but also begins to confide in the other woman, “Wife 22.”
Researcher and Wife 22 slowly learn of each other’s marriages and eventually, through all the e-mail correspondence, difficulties at each other’s homes, and efforts at revealing a compassion to each other, they see stars in their eyes, even though their appearance is disguised.
A kind of yearning, a love born gradually in their hearts, starts to unfold.
Although there exist terrific moments of humor throughout Gideon’s novel, there also is a strong element of discovering for the first time the true personalities of Alice and William. Gideon shows that no matter how well a couple think they know each other, they will discover in the end just how lost, insecure, foolish, shocked, silly, hurt and lonely they really have been.
Yet, as Gideon suggests in her novel, there always exists an opportunity for a couple to learn from their mistakes, perhaps laugh about their foolishness and then move on and enjoy their daily activities in a world where life is brief and so very valuable.
With all the technology available to everybody today, many readers may find it exceptionally riveting to soak up all the computer dialogue Gideon provides in her novel.
If readers are hooked on the Internet, passwords, gismos and computer slang, these will be excellent excuses for those curious ones to go on reading and set aside responsibility for the time being.
In the long run, however, secrets can be destructive. And no machine, no amount of technology, could ever replace the human touch as Alice and William will soon find out for themselves.
Carol Wright is a freelance writer. She resides in Winfield.