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Book Review: Recipe for a Perfect Wife

Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown is a dual narrative novel, telling the stories of two women living sixty years apart in the same house. Though the lives of Nellie and Alice may seem ordinary on the surface, the undertones to this book contain something sinister and mysterious, and will keep you turning the page.

The two women narrating this novel are Nellie Murodch, a simple housewife from the 1950’s, and Alice Hale, an aspiring writer from 2018. Nellie loves to garden and cook, and hopes one day to be a mother. However, her husband Richard is beginning to show that he isn’t the same kind and charming man who swept her off her feet. Alice and her husband, Nate, move into Nellie’s house after Alice loses her job in the city and seeks to begin her first novel. While Nate has dreams of starting a family, heaviness sets on Alice’s heart. She hasn’t been honest with her husband, and lies only build up more. The two women are connected when Alice finds a box of Nellie’s old cook books and magazines in their basement. 

I love the concept of the overall story. I felt like the idea was familiar, yet original and creative which made it a great read. For someone who loves the 1950’s and ‘60’s aesthetic, it was nice to settle in with a book that indulged me in this way. The pacing is ideal for someone who wants a decently quick read, as I found myself flying through the chapters pretty fast. I’m more of a reader who likes to “sit” on a book for a while and really savor the prose - especially if it’s a book I really love. So, I did find myself walking away from Recipe for a Perfect Wife for a hot minute in order to take my time with it. Because not only are the chapters quick, the story is extremely captivating. It was easy to get lost in Nellie and Alice’s world - or rather, their house. 

As for the main characters, I was pretty invested in Nellie’s story. She was such a sweet and tenderhearted character, and it was satisfying when towards the end of the book she started getting some bite and self-respect. I went back and forth between sympathizing with Alice and being frustrated with her. I understood her pressure of having a baby and her right to not want to be a mother, but her constant lying to Nate and sneaking around behind his back didn’t make it any better. Alice was harder for me to like and feel connected to, but towards the end I started liking her more and enjoyed her sections of the novel just as much as Nellie’s. The two women were very much alike, but also very different, and so I’m not sure what Brown’s intentions were with how she wrote Alice. For me, the character just wasn’t as likeable as Nellie was. 

Some things I really loved about the book was that each ‘Nellie Chapter’ contains a real 1950’s recipe, and it was somehow related/used within Nellie’s storyline in that chapter. I equally loved how each ‘Alice Chapter’ begins with quotes for wives and women on how to treat their husbands and all range from the 1920’s to the 1950’s - though disturbing, it really set the scene. The other thing I really loved about this book was the cover. I have the hardcover 2020 edition (seen above), and not only do I love the skull and crossbones in the title (really adding to the sinister undertones throughout the book) but it’s designed to look like an old cookbook. This just adds to the aesthetic of the novel itself and further indulges my admiration for the vintage aesthetic.

If you’re looking for an easy read with vintage appeal, look no further than Recipe for a Perfect Wife!

 

 

Hailey Deyo is from Lansing, Michigan, and is a senior at Michigan State University pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing with a cognate in English. Currently, she is an editing intern for the online academic journal, JOGLTEP. When she isn't writing or editing, Hailey enjoys reading horror and science fiction or listening to the latest True Crime Podcast.
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