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Book Rec: Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

Updated: Apr 9

“The hardest question we have to ask ourselves in this life is, "Who am I?" Ideally, we answer it for ourselves, but be warned that others will strive to do it for you- so don't let them.”

book jacket with title and authori listed and a 1950s housewife behind the print

In this captivating dual narrative novel, a modern-day woman finds inspiration in hidden notes left by her home’s previous owner, a quintessential 1950s housewife. As she discovers remarkable parallels between this woman’s life and her own, it causes her to question the foundation of her own relationship with her husband - and what it means to be a wife fighting for her place in a patriarchal society.

When Alice Hale leaves a career in publicity to become a writer and follows her husband to the New York suburbs, she is unaccustomed to filling her days alone in a big, empty house. But when she finds a vintage cookbook buried in a box in the old home's basement, she becomes captivated by the cookbook’s previous owner - 1950s housewife Nellie Murdoch. As Alice cooks her way through the past, she realizes that within the cookbook’s pages, Nellie left clues about her life - including a mysterious series of unsent letters penned to her mother.

Soon, Alice learns that while baked Alaska and meatloaf five ways may seem harmless, Nellie's secrets may have been anything but. When Alice uncovers a more sinister - even dangerous - side to Nellie’s marriage and has become increasingly dissatisfied with the mounting pressures in her own relationship, she begins to take control of her life and protect herself with a few secrets of her own.

Recipe for a Perfect Wife Discussion Guide

  1. I loved this dual-narrative of two women with vastly different lives, and yet… how similar. What similarities do both women have in their marriages? In society of their time? In their secrets?

  2. Do you think it was a mistake for Alice to leave Manhattan?

  3. Food plays a big role in this novel. How does food bond characters? How does it shape our connection with others?

  4. How are the men depicted in this novel the same?

  5. How have gender stereotypes changed in the last 50 years? What stays the same?

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Aug 18, 2023
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