Recipe for a Perfect Wife

Dutton. Jan. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781524744939. $26. F
When Alice Hale and her husband, Nate, move from high-energy New York City to an old suburban house in need of repairs, she’s unhappy. But Nate wanted to move, and she recently lost her PR job anyway. Her plan is to write a novel, but she has no ideas until she comes upon an old cookbook and unsent letters that shine light on Nellie Murdoch, the house’s previous owner, and her unhappy marriage to Richard. Alice’s marriage isn’t all that rosy, either, especially because of Nate’s pressuring her to have a baby. While she tries her hand at old recipes (“Busy Day Cake,” anyone?) and gardening, she notices parallels between marriage in the mid-1950s and 2018, especially patriarchal notions and the secrets women keep. Written in the third person, chapters alternate between Alice and Nellie, though more chapters are dedicated to modern-day Alice and her escalating power struggle with Nate; Nellie’s chapters transport readers to a time that was much different yet in some ways the same.
VERDICT Brown (The Life Lucy Knew) kills it; her latest is a winner so captivating that fans of modern and old-fashioned stories about women could easily read it in one day. [See Prepub Alert, 7/15/19.]

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