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Recipe for a Perfect Wife

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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.

317 pages, Hardcover

First published December 31, 2019

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About the author

Karma Brown

19 books1,071 followers
KARMA BROWN is a Canadian award-winning journalist, speaker, and the #1 bestselling author of seven novels, including RECIPE FOR A PERFECT WIFE. She has also written the non-fiction bestseller THE 4% FIX, and has co-authored two holiday rom-coms under the pen name Maggie Knox. In addition to her books, Karma's writing has appeared in publications such as Redbook, SELF, and Chatelaine. Karma lives just outside Toronto with her husband, daughter, and a labradoodle named Fred. Her next novel, WHAT WILD WOMEN DO, will be released in November 2023.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,654 reviews
Profile Image for Meredith (Slowly Catching Up).
793 reviews12.4k followers
November 10, 2019
3.5 stars

“ A modern woman who is of the contentious type is often amenable to love and reason. If she will only listen quietly--a process that is painful to her--you may firmly, rationally, and kindly convince her she is not always in the right.” Walter Galichan, Modern Woman and How to Manager Her (1910).

A reluctant housewife in the present finds herself drawn to a housewife from the 1950s in Recipe for a Perfect Wife.

In the early 1950s, Nellie, an early 20 something has married Richard, a man in his mid-thirties. Richard swept Nellie off her feet and she thought that she had found her prince charming, but as their marriage progresses, Nellie realizes that she married a controlling and abusive man who cares more about appearances than his wife.

In 2018, Alice and her husband, Nate, move from NYC to a suburban money pit. Ali, who was fired from her high profile job, decides she will play the doting wife to cover up the lies she told her husband about the demise of her career. Once she and Nate move into their new home, more and more lies are told throwing their marriage into a tailspin.

Each chapter starts with an excerpt from books written from the late 19thc. To the early 20th century with advice on how to be the perfect wife. I loved reading these little snippets, they were horrifying and fascinating at the same time. Other chapters begin with a recipe, some of which sound disgusting, and other delicious. These were my favorite parts of the book.

The narrative switches between Nellie and Alice's POV's. I loved Nellie’s story and character, but Alice’s character wasn’t fully developed. Her storyline was predictable and filled with cliches. I also felt Nellie’s story could have used another chapter. Overall, I think the plot could have been more complex and nuanced.

Even though this was fluffier than expected, in the end, it was an enjoyable and entertaining read.

“The average man marries a woman who is slightly less intelligent than he is.That’s why many brilliant women never marry. They do not come in contact with sufficiently brilliant men, or fail to disguise their brilliance in order to win a man of somewhat less intelligence.” Dr. Clifford R. Adams, Modern Bride (1952)

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher and NetGalley/Edelweiss (duplicate request) in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kalyn✨.
471 reviews60 followers
March 26, 2021
I feel bad for my low rating because the author seems wonderful and she's a fellow Canadian, but I hated Alice. Hated.

I am especially angry because I LOVE the title and idea, and it was all wasted on her.

Alice spends a lot of time trying to vilify her husband. The logic is that, since she's a manipulative liar, he must be one, too.

Out of curiosity, what's the point of being in a relationship— a marriage, to boot— if you flat-out refuse to communicate truthfully with your husband about what you want? She tells him she wants a baby— insists, actually— and then gets upset because he... wants a baby. Like, huh?

She has SO MANY opportunities to tell him the truth too, but she just doesn't.

She lies about work, about smoking, about this and that. And this angel of a man, even after she went behind his back, feels like he's the one who needs to apologize.... for doing something she said she wanted. Am I missing something here?

"Was it fair to feel manipulated by Nate, even though she was guilty of much the same?"

HOW HAS HE MANIPULATED YOU, ALICE? By keeping track of your cycle to have the best chance of having the baby YOU SAID YOU WANTED?

She's a horrible friend too, who patronizes and is just downright cruel to her supposed "best friend" because she— an adult woman— got married without Alice's permission. Or maybe it was because Bronwyn's life didn't match up with what Alice thought was acceptable? She later pulls a big fit because Bronwyn spoke to Nate "behind her back" because she was concerned.

Let's also not forget that one scene where she makes a huge mess in the kitchen and is mad that Nate isn't cleaning it. He's expecting her to clean up her mess like a big girl— how horrible is that?!

"Yes, Alice had made the mess, but in Murray Hill Nate would have been just as likely to clean up as Alice (if not moreso)"

She faces no consequences for being a horrible person and the book finishes with her getting her way by, you guessed it, manipulating Nate. (Compromise in relationships, who? I don't know her.)

I guess we're supposed to root for Alice, but nope. Not today, not ever. Fuck her.

Nellie was cool. Richard was awful (though at least the book recognizes this, unlike Alice...) and as much as I don't condone

Thank you for reading my rant. I'm going to go scream for a few hours and try to forget everything I just read, but I hope you have a wonderful day :-)
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews13 followers
January 30, 2020
Library Overdrive Audiobook, read by Jorjeana Marie, and Mozhan Marno
…. a 9 hour and 15 minute audio-listen!

Friends were saying this book was good …or
…….they heard it was good.

After a few hours of listening , and skimming, I had enough!

The men in this book were made out to be scumbags — (dominate, abuse, rape)

The women took control of their lives by keeping secrets, lying, and nagging!

I couldn’t stand the sugary-milk, butter, and sprinkle-cooking-chatter.
I don’t want to read listed ingredients…and be taught how to make a cake in a novel.

I could care less about mint green dresses, cardigan sweaters, heels, babies, (or not), or how roses gave much in return.
I wasn’t interested in the smoking scenes with or without filters — I didn’t care about the ‘head’ rush of smoking - I didn’t care who smoked or didn’t — I just didn’t want to listen to ‘whining’ about it.
…nor did I care if anyone had ‘pleasant-sex’, or not….

….I especially wasn’t interested in listening to the dreadful dialogue of arguing and nagging.

I didn’t care one way or another about the characters, the long winded descriptions, those awful quotes and recipes, — equally disliking the ‘dual/parallel’ past and present stories.

I understand that this book was to be in part lighthearted……with humorous marriage advice, and Betty Crocker recipes…..
mixed with serious themes about suffocating lives — making for a great book-club-pick-for women to discuss….
I loathed everything about this book.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,448 reviews7,551 followers
January 9, 2020
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

Every woman needs a good secret or two.

Here’s some blatant honesty for you: The only reason I put my name on the library list for this release was because the cover reminded me of the vintage e-cards that I find hilarious . . . .

Little did I know the story itself could have easily been inspired by those snarky little snaps that I find so amusing.

Aspiring author Alice is a modern day “housewife” (not necessarily by choice, but you’ll find out more about that if you read the book). She and her husband Nate have just moved from the Big Apple to suburban life, bought a fixer upper and are hopeful Alice will soon be barefoot and pregnant . . . .

Nellie lived in the same house back in the ‘50s when it was fresh as a daisy with her husband Roger. They were the picture perfect couple . . . . .

When Alice stumbles upon a box of old magazines, Nellie’s family cookbook and is later gifted a pile of letters from Nellie to her mother that the neighbor has saved for ages, she begins channeling her own inner domestic goddess and finds inspiration for her potential book. But the more she reads, the more she uncovers . . . . .

I really didn’t expect this book to suck me in the way it did, but boy howdy did it. From the dual narratives to the “helpful hints” on how to be a good wife rather than some shrieking harpy to the recipes, I just couldn’t stop turning pages. I actually have a recipe box rather than book with notes like the ones in here, had to call my mother-in-law for backup at 5:00 a.m. the first Thanksgiving I cooked on my own because I had no clue what the eff “oleo” was (that was before Google since I am a dinosaur), and 100% have been horrified by the vast amounts of gelatin-based “salads” and “high-end” appetizers my Grandmother chose to pass down just like some contained in this book . . .

“It’s called ‘Hollywood Dunk.’ An appetizer from the fifties.”

“What’s in that?”

“Deviled ham. Chives. Onion. Horseradish. It’s chopped up deli ham mixed with mayonnaise, mustard, hot pepper sauce, and salt and pepper, and then you blend it a bit. Then you add the chives, onion, and horseradish. Oh, and the last thing is whipped cream. Can’t forget that.”

“Why would you make this? To eat?”

(In case you want to make this sure-to-be-delicious concoction for your next Bunco gathering, you serve it with a big ol’ bowl of chips.)

I definitely don't think this will be a winner for everyone, but I was completely enthralled by the whole dang thing and I’m giving it all the Stars.
Profile Image for BernLuvsBooks .
773 reviews4,642 followers
March 26, 2020
3.5 Alternating Timelines & Secrets Filled Stars (rounded up) for Recipe for a Perfect Wife

Told in alternating timelines Recipe for a Perfect Wife , tells the stories of dissatisfied wife Alice Hale who has given up a career in publicity to be a writer upon relocating with her husband to the suburbs. ⁣

Upon discovering a vintage cookbook buried in a box in her new home's basement, Alice 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. ⁣

While the recipes seem harmless Nellie's secrets appear to be anything but. Alice uncovers a sinister side to Nellie’s marriage as she faces mounting pressures in her own relationship. Their marriage has become one in which the truth is an inner monologue with so much left unsaid. I struggled with Alice's character and many of her actions (hence the lower rating) but I was absolutely taken with Nellie and her backstory.

I was intrigued by this book's format including (antiquated and at times laugh out loud hilarious) advice to women from 19th century publications. We’ve come a long way since then, yet many of our battles remain the same don’t they? ⁣ Finally, the recipes - what a treat! Some of them made me roll my eyes in disgust while thinking, who would want to eat that? Others, I admit had me curious to try and see how they'd fare.

Overall, the plot was predictable and a bit cliche (I think that was the point though) but it was an entertaining read.

Thank you to Edelweiss, Dutton and Penguin Publishing Group for providing me with an arc in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Michelle.
603 reviews458 followers
December 17, 2019
This is probably the fastest I’ve finished a book all year. I considered DNF'ing, but I'm glad I stuck it out. It had a lot more depth than what I was anticipating and even though I didn't particularly like Alice (the present day MC), I appreciated her gusto by the end of the book.

Dual storylines don't always work for me and this one was an exception. Usually, I find myself loving one perspective and disliking the other, but this was pretty equal. Once the book found it's groove, I couldn't flip the pages fast enough. Besides being an interesting story, I really enjoyed it for it's education of the 50's. Not only by what we were reading from the characters, but the author put recipes and snippets from publications of the time in as well so as to be fully immersed as though we were there. I think this book also would be a good book club pick since there is a lot to discuss in the things that changed for women and the things that didn't.

Thanks to Edelweiss, Dutton and Karma Brown for the opportunity to read and provide an honest review of this book.

Review Date: 12/17/19
Publication Date: 12/31/19
Profile Image for Brandice.
859 reviews
August 3, 2020
Recipe for a Perfect Wife follows Ali, a woman in her 30s who relocates from NYC to a suburb with her husband, Nate, in 2018. She recently left her job to write a novel and they buy a house that needs some work. Nate is eager to start a family, Ali is more reluctant.

Nellie is married to Richard in the 1950s. He swept her off her feet but she soon discovers his darker controlling side, expecting her to be a docile housewife at all times. ⁣She maintains the house, prepares meals, and socializes with other neighborhood women as her and Richard try to start a family.

In the basement of her house, Ali finds a cookbook left behind by the the previous homeowner along with several letters from Nellie to her mother, describing her life and sometimes referencing meals she made. Ali becomes very curious about Nellie’s life, and tries out many of the cookbook’s recipes as she attempts to adjust to domestic life and be honest about what she wants.

Overall, I really enjoyed this dual timeline story, alternating between Ali and Nellie, though Nellie was more likable. I was irritated by Ali’s secretive behavior especially toward Nate, however, he was no saint either.

Recipe for a Perfect Wife is an interesting story showing how life has changed for women in some ways, but still not in others. It also offers a subtle reminder there are multiple ways to build a life and figure out who we are — 3.5 stars (rounded up).
May 19, 2020
3 stars.

A domestic drama with a vintage feel.

Alice and Nate move out of their apartment and into their first home. Nate is eager to settle into their house and neighborhood and start a family while Alice is hesitant and misses the busyness and noise of city life. Nate envisions all of the projects he will start on their dated house to get it ready for what he hopes will be their growing family. One day Alice stumbles upon an old recipe book hidden in the basement with notes from a housewife in the 1950’s who once resided in the house. Alice tries some of the recipes and grows attached to the book as she uncovers some of secrets from its past owner.

Each chapter begins with an old-fashioned quote from 1950’s housewife magazines and articles. I found these an interesting addition to the story as they gave perspective on exactly how women were viewed and treated during that time. I also enjoyed the retro recipes in each chapter.

The story unfolds through two timelines — 1950’s and present day. I didn’t quite “click” with any of the characters and I had an extra hard time with the present day storyline. This novel was very stereotypical for many reasons. I felt it had the potential to be much stronger and I didn’t enjoy the route the author chose to take with the storyline.

I have read all of this authors work and loved most of her books. Sadly this one will not be added to my “loved” pile. Please check out the several raving reviews before deciding on this.

Thank you to Edelweiss for my review copy!
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12.2k followers
June 3, 2020
My rating: 2.5 stars which means that this was a little better than okay for me but I had a few reservations while I was reading it, still needing to finish.

Amusing, unsettling, and exasperating!

RECIPE FOR A PERFECT WIFE by KARMA BROWN is a book that I was immediately excited to read because of its promising title and great looking cover. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy the direction that this book took which really impacted my feelings towards it.

Each chapter either starts off with a vintage recipe or an old-fashioned quote that I found both quite amusing and enjoyable to read. I even tried a few recipes. The first was the Chocolate Chip Cookies which didn’t really turn out all that well for me but the taste was great though and the Bread and Cheese Pudding recipe which was actually pretty good but I didn’t put enough bread crumbs in though so it was really custardy.

The story is told in alternating chapters and timelines between Nellie and Alice’s point of views which instantly grabbed my attention and then fizzled out around the halfway mark. The problem that I really had here with this book was that Alice really grated on me and I just couldn’t get past that. Normally unlikeable characters don’t bother me and totally entertain me but not this time. Her behaviour really rubbed me the wrong way and in the end she just left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

I absolutely love the vintage look to the cover and the way that the book was formatted, so this book will always have a place on my shelves. Just because this book took a turn that didn’t really sit well with me doesn’t mean that I won’t recommend this to other readers. Please don’t let my review deter you from trying this one for yourself!

I complemented my eARC which I received from Edelweiss with a physical copy I purchased myself.
Profile Image for Tina.
512 reviews795 followers
May 16, 2021
Another great book by Karma Brown! I have to say this one was a little bit more darker than I expected from her. I think she could have easily turned this into a psychological thriller but I like the direction she went with.

First off, I love the title and I love the cover! I'm always intrigued about the life of a 1950's housewife so I just had to read this. This has two timelines which I enjoyed equally. Present day and mid 1950's. In present day Alice and her husband Nate want to leave the hustle and bustle of Downtown Manhattan and decide to go to the suburbs (Greenville) and purchase a house. Alice is feeling a bit lost as she has left her job at a popular publishing house. When she is cleaning up the old house she finds a box full of old 1950's magazines in the basement. Also in the box is an old cookbook. Alice is on a quest to find out who it belonged to and trying to fill up all her extra time she begins to cook some of the old recipes for dinner and becomes entwined with the era. The old cookbook belonged to Nellie who used to live in the house with her husband Richard in the 1950's. Nellie was an excellent cook, fabulous dinner party hostess and a fantastic gardener. She seemed to be the epitome of a 1950's housewife.

While Alice keeps investigating Nellie's life could it be it was not so perfect after all? Alice herself has a few secrets up her sleeve. This book makes you really examine how a woman's role in marriage and society has somewhat changed but yet there are still many challenges that are similar. I enjoyed the old recipes that were also included in the story. I thought it was very clever to include at the beginning of each chapter tips for the perfect housewife (from antiquated books on marriage.)

I really enjoyed reading this book. My only disappointment might have been the ending. Overall a well written and researched novel. I think Book Clubs will love this one!

I'd like to thank NetGalley and Penguin Random House Canada for granting me access to this Advanced Reader Copy.
Profile Image for Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews.
1,054 reviews1,375 followers
July 26, 2020
An old house, an old cookbook, notes in the cookbook that reveal the life of Nellie, and Alice who has some secrets of her own is what the reader finds in this lovely read.

We meet Alice who was fired from her job because of something she leaked and we learn of a box she finds that is filled with books, magazines, and a cookbook that inspires Alice to try some of the recipes.

Along with the cookbook, Alice finds notes about the life of a woman, Nellie, who lived during the 1950’s.

The cookbook helped Alice pass her days since she no longer was working and really didn’t like her new home.

Nellie who owned the books was a stay-at-home wife from the 1950's who wasn’t happy and whose husband was a domestic abuser.

The stories of Nellie and Alice are told in alternating chapters as Alice finds similarities in their lives and meets the next door neighbor whose mother knew Nellie.

Alice was a bit unlikable, but her husband was sweet.

Alice’s neighbor found old letters in her basement written by Nellie to her mother and brought them to Alice. Could these old letters trigger an idea for the book Alice was supposed to be writing?

RECIPE FOR A PERFECT WIFE is an endearing and nostalgic trip back in time with the letters taking us back to the 1950’s and influencing Alice’s present-day life.

Women’s fiction fans, readers who enjoy a dual time line and a story line that keeps you wanting more will enjoy RECIPE FOR A PERFECT WIFE.

A truly, enjoyable, makes-you-feel-good read.

Loved it. 5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Mary Kubica.
Author 24 books14.4k followers
April 16, 2019
RECIPE FOR A PERFECT WIFE masterfully bridges the lives of two women, living sixty years apart, who refuse to fall victim to the patriarchy. While Karma Brown’s signature style remains, it’s laced with something sinister and dark. A brilliant, brooding, timely novel, fraught with tension, that packs a punch. Brown knows how to keep readers riveted until the very last page.
Profile Image for Beth.
274 reviews
December 8, 2019
Something is really bothering me about this book. Is it because I have no respect for Alice who treats her husband like garbage: lying again and again about really important things, assuming the worst about him, emotionally blackmailing him at the end to get what she wants? How is this parallel to Nellie's story of domestic abuse? The whole novel feels like a gimmick: the vintage recipes, the jaw-droppingly sexist snippets from marriage manuals of the past, the question of if this house is haunted or not. I couldn't not finish it, but I feel like I wasted my time.
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,104 reviews131 followers
February 24, 2020
This was a read that offered something a little bit different. I felt indulged over the chapters, (probably aided by the frequent recipes!) and simultaneously intrigued by how this dual narrative would develop.

Set in present day, we meet Alice. At first she seems like she is trying to do good by her husband, Nate, by attempting to keep to what she believes is the image of a “perfect wife”. (Ladies out there: they do exist and perfection takes the form of many imperfections.) However, it soon transpired that Alice has many secrets that she wishes to keep from her husband. The web of deceit grows and, at its peak, this was when I disliked her character the most. I was uncomfortable with her deception and wanted her to come clean. Towards the closing of the novel, this deceit crumbles and Alice’s growth reflects her new understanding of her role within her marriage to Nate.

Running parallel with this narrative is Nellie’s story. A 1950s housewife, we learn that all is definitely not what it seems behind closed doors. She presents the image of perfection yet, it is her husband’s abhorrent behaviour that pushes her to become something that he cannot control. Interestingly, today we would call this an ‘independent woman’ yet, in the 1950s, it would show Nellie breaking the rules of a perfect wife.

The two narratives are both interesting and surprising. I admittedly preferred Nellie’s story because I enjoyed how things were not as perceived. Alice is too dishonest for most of the story and I yearned for her to create a close, honest connection with her husband. It was interesting to see how two women dealt with the challenges a relationship can bring, particularly with regards to becoming a mother.

Similarities between the two women are rather symbolic. Joined by home and garden, the two women separated by several decades both share similar experiences. The control the man has in a marriage has undoubtedly altered yet, the desire to please from both women remains the same. Alice and Nellie are incredibly alike and I enjoyed how Alice increasingly behaved like a 1950s dutiful housewife through actions and appearance. On the other hand, Nellie’s path leads her to being more independent – a lot like Alice in present day.

This was a lovely story with some darkness in it too. This added depth, making it more than just a drama. It is evident that the writer has carried out extensive research in this story and I do wonder if she is partially reflected in Alice (not just because Alice is trying to write a novel). The narrative gently rolled over me in a pleasant way and by the end of the story, I felt like I had close connections with both women.

With so many different strands to this story, I believe this should have wide appeal. It’s not just “cutesy” about being a model wife, but more about discovering your true identity – not based on social expectations.

I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. With thanks to everyone at Legend Press and Karma Brown for allowing me to participate in this blog tour.
Profile Image for Robyn Harding.
Author 16 books2,528 followers
March 19, 2020
Charming, unique, dark and delicious. I devoured this novel and even learned some kitchen tips and tricks. Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Rereader.
1,300 reviews88 followers
June 13, 2020
This went from "boring but tolerable" to "pseudo-feminist bullshit" towards the end, which is disappointing because I was hoping for the former and infuriatingly got the latter.

I have been reading a lot of questionably labelled "feminist" novels this year (because I hate myself, apparently) and I'm slowly growing more and more frustrated because according to novels like Recipe for a Perfect Wife, how you write a feminist story is as follows:

1. Create an intolerable female character who's meek and shy and makes excuses for men until she gets a shot of pseudo-feminism and decides to become a proper human being.

2. Make all of the men in the story either misogynistic, creepy/perverted, a rapist, or demanding (bonus points if he's all of these at once!).

3. Have everything be the man's fault because we can't have the main female character be responsible for any of the fucked up decisions she makes, RIGHT?

4. Ensure that every feminist topic is incorporated into the story, regardless of whether it needs to or not, and that every topic is written with absolutely zero subtlety and as simply as possible so that even a toddler can understand it.

You guys can try to argue with me all you want, but that's basically what every bottom-tier "feminist" novel reads like; just trying to push a feminist agenda without trying to tell an engaging story or have sympathetic characters to root for-all that matters is the message!

Speaking of characters, aside from Nellie who I actually really liked until the end, everyone just a FUCKING SUCKS. Alice is easily one of the most irresponsible adults I've ever read in fiction and that wouldn't be the case if she wasn't such a LYING LITTLE SHIT. Holy shit, so many of her problems would have been EASILY solved if she had just used her FUCKING BIG GIRL WORDS and told her husband THE FUCKING TRUTH. And no, I don't want to hear this, "well it's hard to tell the truth sometimes, everyone goes through that!" bullshit because yes, it can be hard for people to tell the truth sometimes and yes, sometimes those lies get out of control, but it's pretty obvious that Alice's lies are meant to create more drama and contrived situations AND NOTHING ELSE. Because guess what, guys? If she didn't lie her ass off at every given point, THERE WOULD BE NO FUCKING NOVEL. Plain and simple.

You'd think that her being a lying little shit would be the worst of it, but what really pushed me over the edge with her was one scene in particular. To sum up everything up to this point, Alice has been lying about working on a novel, lied about the reason why she quit her job (I can't even be bothered to discuss the bullshit with that), and lied about her feelings towards starting a family. Essentially, Nate (her husband) finds out about all of this and then Alice learns that Nate put their house back on the market, got a promotion for a new job starting his own team in California, and NEVER FUCKING TOLD HER. Later, Alice comes up with one of the most bullshit proposals I've ever witnessed: she wants Nate to HOLD OFF on his promotion, putting it at risk, stay at their dilapidated home, and wait SIX MONTHS for her to write her novel and IF it becomes a best-seller, they stay there permanently. If not, they move to California. And in case that wasn't bullshit already, that novel that she pitched to her agent that is apparently REALLY, REALLY GOOD and that Nate should risk his entire PROMOTION on? All that's completed is two pages.

Let me sum this up for you in case that was too much at once: Alice wants Nate to risk a promotion that he's worked his ass off so that they can stay in a shitty house and wait to see if Alice's novel, which she's only written TWO PAGES OF, might be successful enough so that she can have some financial say in their marriage. And before anyone loses their shit, I AM PERFECTLY AWARE WHAT BROWN IS TRYING TO SAY. Women have historically been the ones to give up their careers and ambitions for their husbands, I am NOT denying that. The problem that I have with this scene is that Brown is clearly going for that message, but fails miserably because it LOGICALLY MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THE SCENE. Alice STILL has no job, no income elsewhere, and Nate has been supporting BOTH of them for the entirety of the novel. How THE ACTUAL FUCK is it fair that Nate should risk his promotion in the chance that Alice's novel MIGHT become a bestseller and MIGHT grant them more financial security?! Because he's man who's been a dick throughout the novel, despite being the only one financially supporting them?! People, I hate to break this to you, but THIS. DOES. NOT. MAKE. LOGICAL. SENSE! I don't CARE that this is meant to show "new feminist Alice" and how she's "done putting aside her ambitions for her husband" when NEITHER of them have been using their FUCKING WORDS from the start AND Alice's proposal makes no logical or financial sense! Feminist sentiment only goes so far, folks, and then you have to see things from a realistic standpoint and admit that it's bullshit.

Now, here's the thing. Was Nate fucking stupid to have not told her any of the news regarding his job? Yes. Should he have talked this over with her? Absolutely. Was it a dick thing to assume she should just go wherever he goes without a second thought? Yes. BUT, it doesn't change the fact that Alice's decision was clearly meant to be seen as her "feminist awakening" despite it making zero logical sense in the context of the scene. If she was already a successful, published author or hell at least had some kind of a job, then I'd be more forgiving. But the fact is she didn't and therefore her proposal was just childish and immature. Speaking of children, she gets pregnant and hooray! Now she can use her pregnancy as leverage to stay because she knows Nate's always wanted kids and he won't refuse her. YAY! Let's use CHILDREN as a means of GETTING WHAT WE WANT, WHAT A WONDERFUL FUCKING MESSAGE TO SPREAD!

Sorry, I know I shouldn't have ranted for so long about one scene but HOLY FUCK did that scene piss me off so much. It doesn't help that their marriage is effectively ruined and Alice even says that she hopes the child will help repair it. ONCE AGAIN, using a CHILD to fix MARITAL ISSUES, WHY DOES NO ONE HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THIS?! Oh, and also Nellie's been slowly killing her husband over the last year or so and that's supposed to be seen as "feminist," she even calls herself a "survivor" which makes me want to vomit. No sweetpea, you're a FUCKING MURDERER.

I'm so done with these pseudo-feminist novels that think that if they have characters say the right lines and do the right things that makes them "feminist" when in reality all they're doing is creating dull, lifeless main female characters that only look better than the men because all the men are terrible, misogynistic assholes. Novels like these only do more harm than good and until more people start questioning and speaking out against them, they're going to keep getting published and giving their cause a bad name.
Profile Image for Wendy.
1,640 reviews558 followers
June 2, 2020
I really enjoyed this story and have loved Karma Brown's previous novels.
Recipe For A Perfect Wife is a captivating dual narrative novel. A present day woman finds inspiration in hidden notes left by her new home's previous owner, a model 1950's housewife. She begins to question the foundation of her own relationship with her husband as she discovers notable parallels between this woman's life and her own. Both women refuse to become defined by their roles as housewives and I enjoyed their self discovery and assertiveness.
I enjoyed the eeriness the story seemed to have.
The recipes added a nice touch to the story!

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Random House Canada for an arc of this novel in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Heather.
128 reviews50 followers
December 4, 2019
This book started out excellent for me but after a while it fizzled and fell a bit flat. I think part of the problem is that I didn’t like the main character, Alice. I’ve read other books by this author and have loved them so I will definitely read more of her books. It kept me reading and was enjoyable but didn’t move me. Thank you to Netgalley for proving me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Tammy(PeaceLoveBooks).
525 reviews199 followers
December 22, 2019
If these walls could talk....Recipe for a Perfect Wife is an unputdownable story of two women living in the same house 60 years apart. This story is full of secrets that kept me turning the pages. This is my first book by Karma Brown and I will be checking out her previous books. I also enjoyed the 1950's era recipes!
Profile Image for Leanne.
573 reviews15 followers
February 14, 2020
This book should have been so much better. Writing the 'modern wife' character as such a colossally immature lying girl/woman was taking the easy way out. She was a bad friend, a spineless employee, and she treated her husband like garbage - a husband who seemed attentive and kind, if a little over eager, until suddenly after 300 pages he was... not.

The 50s story was better, but seriously uncreative. The only people who think that time was idyllic either didn't live through it, or have forgotten the incredible conformity, mysogyny, double standards, and subjugation of so many people; so highlighting that without depth or new behaviors is boring.

Exhausting, frustrating 2 stars. And those only for the research required to dig up all that garbage from the "perfect 1950s".
Profile Image for Olha.
165 reviews85 followers
May 26, 2022
Хороша книжка в стилі серіалу «Чому жінки вбивають?».
Один дім, дві часові лінії, Елсі в 2018 знаходить в підвалі нового будинку кулінарну книгу з нотатками попередньої власниці Неллі. Також Елсі потрапляють до рук відверті листи Неллі, які та писала до своєї мами.
Читається легко, головна тема - як жінці не втратити себе в подружніх стосунках.
Коли вже купила книгу, почали попадатись на очі відгуки і там писали про відкритий фінал, я навіть встигла засмутитись, бо не люблю такий. Але. Можу скзати, що він не настільки відкритий, як буває)) тобто, легко читається те, що може статись далі 👌🏻
Profile Image for Jin.
637 reviews117 followers
November 14, 2021
A lovely idea, an amazing Nellie and the worst thinkable female lead, Alice.
If the story would have a twist a la Stephen King (or just any twist by the end), I could have handled Alice in some way but no, she was just bad. How can you put Nellie and Alice on the same table and try to make both look same? They were totally different in their core: Nellie couldn't do much as a woman, a wife in a brutal relationship in 1950s. Alice on the other hand could have done so much more; as the author writes in the first page, there have been a lot of work to make the lives of women better and Alice was certainly not a relatable or understandable character at all.
And most all: she doesn't deserve her husband, a seemingly understanding, loving man who must be a saint, or her best friend. Come on, I'm talking to you, Bronwyn (best friend), why did you forgive Alice after all the stupid things she'd done/say?!

Anyway, it's such a shame that I didn't like this story because it started in such a nice way and I chose it for a relaxing moment on a Sunday afternoon. But instead it was stressing me and now I really don't know if I want to keep the physical copy or not. (The cover is so pretty and it has this year's Frankfurt book fair sticker which makes it even more special)
Profile Image for Kimberly Belle.
Author 16 books4,043 followers
February 3, 2020
Captivating is right. I loved everything about this story, all the way to the acknowledgements - so clever! Karma, please write every secret book you've got bonking around in your head, because I will read them.
Profile Image for DeB.
984 reviews246 followers
July 17, 2020
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️+ I guess that I should wipe the grin off of my face - I suspect that my smiley emoji reaction wouldn’t necessarily be the most likely EXPECTED reaction to this novel, but there it is! The novel evoked a sense of nostalgia for my dear mom, for the nonsensical beliefs we had about the 1950s as being the tea party, Tupperware and cozy family era and some contemplation about gender politics then and now.

I’ve also come off of its pages rather vastly amused, feeling a bit like an old crone and wishing to explain to Miss Karma Brown, in my quivering voice, “Dearie, you got some of the details muddled, methinks... it was a pretty good try, but you weren’t there. The women’s lives were so much more.”

As a Canadian, it isn’t often that I get to walk back into some of my history, juxtaposed as it was onto an American story, and recognize the details as some so dearly familiar as those of my mother’s kitchen and my childhood. Karma Brown was honouring her grandmother which she mentioned in the acknowledgments: that woman likely would have been of the same era as my own mother, and the times were therefore familiar to me.

In The Perfect Wife, Alice Hale moves into an old suburban home with her new husband Nate. They haven’t really communicated their long term goals, and Alice finds herself railroaded into his idea of what marriage is meant to look like, while her employment situation has suddenly evaporated and she is scrambling to reinvent herself. While digging through magazines left behind by the previous owner, Nellie Murdoch, who lived there in the 1950’s, Alice finds her magazines and a well used cookbook and letters that paint an increasingly disturbing portrait of a woman caught in a difficult life and times with apparently few options.

Moving between 2018 and 1955, each woman finds themselves caught in fraught conditions, necessary to compromise who they are under the will of their determined spouses, and in Nellie’s case, abusive husband Richard. Alice herself is floundering, out of work, trying to find her way with the remnants of what was Nellie’s garden and after discovering the cookbook, decides to try her hand at the panoply of recipes within. Many of those have been handed down by Nellie’s mother, Elsie- they cover many generations and reflect those changing times.

Each woman has challenges to overcome, and the suspense builds in their stories nicely. My interest was easily maintained. I admit that I was waiting eagerly for the next featured recipe, whether it might be one I might recognize and I grinned at the reactions of the current household when faced with some of the less appealing concoctions.

As far as seeing these women as being as heroic examples of their generation - well, no. Solutions weren’t as “pat”, for those who had to live under less than ideal circumstances then; Alice, in the present story, has a much more idealized version of choice than many do now, I would hazard to guess. The conclusions were rather neat, and not too discordant, though. Just a bit out of kilter with the novel’s sales pitch, in my opinion.

Why was I grinning though? Nellie was portrayed through a very superficial prism.

The 1950’s were post war years, and I don’t think anyone young today can understand what that means. Families became more suburban- less agrarian - and reliant on grocers, town economy etc., but women continued to work hard physically.

There were no washers and dryers- ringer washers took real WORK to do laundry and clothes were hung on lines, winter and summer. Fabrics were not wash and wear- they had to be starched and ironed! Socks, sweaters, mittens and gloves were knitted- by the woman in the house! People needed to know how to do basic sewing and how to darn socks. Dishes were washed in sinks... some places still had hand pumps inside.

Jello was this wonder- a cold dessert that could be prepared, put in a cold electric refrigerator and be ready for the dinner meal! Canned, prepared soups were an outcome from the war years and became available to the consumer - who tried to figure out ways to use them instead of fancy sauce preparation, as touted by the manufacturers as time savers. Shortcuts were appreciated. Grocery shopping became a husband and wife job because few households had two vehicles. Women couldn’t just pop into a store to pick up an item. Milk was delivered, and sometimes bread too.

The 1950’s women in Karma Brown’s more superficial version cooked, baked, gardened and had Tupperware parties- I winced a bit at the lack of understanding at what their lives actually entailed, and was a bit amused. However, I did grow up loving the jellied salads (though not ones with tuna), and the Porcupines, meatballs with rice slow baked with tomato soup have been a family fav now for 60 years! I have fond memories of a Purity Flour Cookbook, and the Five Roses Flour one- My Pineapple Upsidedown Cake is found within the latter, and many of the recipes peppered through this novel.

History, cookbooks and picky details aside, the most discouraging aspect of this novel is that men are represented as such poor examples of their gender.

Quotes head chapters, chosen from magazines, quarterlies, newspapers, advice columns, books- and none paint the role expected of women in relation to the ego of men, over the years, positively.

“After you marry him- study him. If he is secretive- trust him. When he is talkative- listen to him. If he is jealous- cure him. If he favours society- accompany him. Let him think you understand him- but never let him think you manage him.” ——The Western Gazette, 1930

Or...”Remember your most important job is to build up and maintain his ego.... Morale is a woman’s business.” Edward Podolsky, Sex Today in Wedded Life

Both Nellie and Alice deal with real world issues, which women have been trying to find ways to accommodate for over a century- and the male advice has been to be passive, female advice has been to be passive aggressive- and women don’t survive well under either circumstance.

I recall recently being somewhere, and the comment made was, “ Oh, he’s a man!”. That meant whoever it was got a free pass to behave however they chose- the consequence would be inconsequential- because of their male gender.

Frankly, I find no sense in that equation but it is accepted, used and continues, to explain men behaving badly. (During these times, we might reference this as ‘gender privilege’, when one gender is unaware of its power inequity over the other and using that to its advantage.)

I can’t tell you the outcome of Recipe for a Perfect Woman; I guess there were ways and then there are more ways to resolve men behaving badly. Past generations of women certainly were much more limited than today’s...

It was a bit of fun! Worth the time to read and reflect on how times have changed- to some degree! High four stars... very much recommended!
Profile Image for Melissa.
1,195 reviews
December 5, 2019
I have been a fan of Karma Brown, ever since I was blown away by Come Away with Me. Her novels are powerful and thought-provoking. Recipe for a Perfect Wife has a different feel from her previous novels, as it is a dual narrative shifting between the 1950's and the present.

Both Alice and Nellie were interesting and sympathetic characters whom I cared about the entire way through the story. I couldn't put the book down because I just had to know what would happen for both of them. Their lives paralleled each other in some ways. Karma's descriptions took me back in time during the 1950's scenes. Everything was easy to visualize in both time periods without having to be overly descriptive. While I didn't like one of the choices Nellie made for herself, I understood why she did it, as well as why Alice made certain choices in her life.

This story speaks volumes about women's roles in marriage both in the past and present. It is a great story that will have readers captivated throughout.

Movie casting suggestions:
Alice: Alison Scagliotti
Nate: Brett Dier
Nellie: Chloë Grace Moretz
Richard: Alan Ritchson
Kitty: Sarah Dugdale
Sally: Jane Alexander
Miriam: Melissa Leo
Profile Image for Colleen Oakley.
Author 8 books1,640 followers
August 6, 2019
With sharp insights into what it means to be a married woman in America both currently and historically, this novel is beguiling, entertaining and wholly unpredictable. I really think this is Karma's best book yet.
Profile Image for Daria.
400 reviews228 followers
September 1, 2022
у мене дивні враження від цієї книжки, бо головна героїня тут антагоністка, яка намагається маніпулювати читацькою думкою про себе. я не знаю чи закладала це авторка, треба почитати якісь статті чи інтерв'ю, але я прочитала це саме так.

у нас є дві часові лінії: 1956 рік і 2018. героїнь поєднує те, що вони обидві заміжні, живуть в одному й тому самому будинку, не працюють (не в сенсі байдикують, вони домогосподарки) і їхні чоловіки прагнуть дітей, але на цьому схожість і закінчується.

з 1956 все просто: це історія милої дівчинки з депресивною мамою, якій дуже хотілося, аби про неї хтось дбав, тож вона вийшла заміж за значно старшого власника фабрики, який виявився аб'юзивним мудаком і не цінував золотко, яке йому дісталося.

а ось з 2018 роком вийшло цікавіше. тут ми бачимо Еліс, яка переїдждає з чоловіком з великого міста у власний будинок (який потребує уваги), вона покинула нервову роботу, збирається написати роман, а також з нетерпінням чекає можливості пізнати щастя материнства. принаймні так вважає чоловік Еліс, бо вона йому так каже! насправді ж Еліс виняткова брехуха і загалом неприємна людина. вона жахливо поводиться з близькими, вона лажає у професійній сфері, вона не бере на себе відповідальність, аби потім сердитися на вибори інших, вона егоїстична, вона ображає єдину подругу, вона звинувачує в усьому матір, вона неприязна навіть до ріелторки без особливих причин. я б не хотіла товаришувати з Еліс, бо вона супер токсік.

мені здається, що авторка намагалася зробити будинок і сад - героями книги, вони реагують на події в житті персонажів, люблю такі рішення.
Profile Image for Bookread2day.
2,237 reviews63 followers
March 24, 2020
My review on my website. www.bookread2day.wordpress.com. Twitter@ bookpage5
My favourite contemporary reading. Don’t miss out on reading Recipe For A Perfect Wife as it gave me a real pleasure in reading a mix of Alice Hale and her husband and a cooking book filled with recipes. If you are going to read any contemporary book make a purchase for Recipe For A Perfect Wife you will find the story unputdownable.

To be honest I’ve been trying to break away from all the crime novels I generally read, so Recipe For A Perfect Wife, has given me such enjoyment, that I’m now following author Karma Brown.

I really adored reading about Alice Hale and Nat who decided to buy an old house, that feels a little creepy to them, but decide to buy the house. The previous owner didn’t have any realatives to leave the house to. With it creaking sounds, ( just like really all houses have their own sounds)

Alice finds in the basement, a cook book from the previous lady owner and cooks her husband recipes from the cook book, she is given some letters from the previous owner.
Unfortunately Alice is fired from her job with a lawsuit against her, which she keeps a secret. Writing a novel seems to be a good idea for Alice, but she’s yet to write it, but that’s another secret. With Alice keeping secrets from her husband, what secrets is her husband keeping from Alice?

So much happens in this novel It is without question an absolute gorgeous story. A real true must buy.
Profile Image for Elinor.
Author 3 books168 followers
March 2, 2020
A solid 3.5 stars. I loved the premise of the dual timeline between 2018 and 1956 (we don't have to go too far back in time to see what changes have been wrought as a result of women's liberation). The two young housewives, inhabiting the same house although sixty-two years apart, are both facing difficult decisions regarding their marriages. Their actions, however, are worlds apart. What I liked was the plot twist in the earlier marriage (although I must confess that I saw it coming). I also appreciated the inclusion of recipes, including some from the great Five Roses Cook Book, where I also extracted a few recipes for my own novel, Wildwood. What I didn't like is that both women lied to their husbands (understandably so in 1956, but somewhat baffling in the 2018 relationship). In fact, the modern-day Alice character was difficult to like.
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