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Friends, I devoured The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey in one sitting yesterday afternoon and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Equal parts science fiction and domestic thriller, this book is a page-turning and heartbreaking exploration of humanity, motherhood, and the roles thrust upon us by society.
About The Echo Wife
Publisher: Tor Books • Release Date: February 16, 2021 • Pages: 256
Age Range: Adult • Genre: Science Fiction • Format: eBook & audiobook • Source: Library
It took me so long to hate him.
Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be.
And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband.
Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and both Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up.
Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty.
💔 Love triangle
🧪 Science & Labs
🧬 Human clones
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My Review of The Echo Wife
Friends, I read this book in one horrified sitting this afternoon and my mind is REELING. The Echo Wife is a page-turning and heartbreaking exploration of humanity, motherhood, and the roles thrust upon us by society.
“I wanted to get all the way to the bottom of the hurt, to let the weight of it crush the breath from my lungs.”
The Echo Wife is equal parts science fiction and domestic thriller. The home and relationships between Evelyn, Martine, and Nathan are at the center of the plot while the science fiction elements breathe new life (and horror) into the love triangle trope. The science truly serves as a vehicle for the plot, just enough is given to explain human cloning while remaining accessible to the average reader. I can’t speak to whether the explanations make sense or not, but they were enough for me as a reader to suspend disbelief. That said, I do wish that there’d been a little more worldbuilding in the opening chapters: what year is it? Is this literally set in an alternate today, just with human cloning? I guess so.
The theme that stuck out the most to me is motherhood and the expected roles those with a uterus are saddled with. Being a mother should not be default, motherhood is something that should be chosen. I appreciate that abortion is normalized, especially because the reason is simply “I don’t want to be a mother” and that should be enough. Unfortunately for Evelyn, it wasn’t enough for her now ex-husband.
“The fact that Martine existed at all was a direct expression of all my failures, all the ways Nathan had decided that our relationship wasn’t enough. All the ways he’d decided that I wasn’t enough.”
There’s a unique kind of hurt felt when your partner cheats on you and leaves you for the other person. It’s impossible to not blame yourself for not being good enough, but imagine if you will that your partner has an affair with your clone. Yea, it’s hard not to internalize that as personal shortcomings. Sarah Gailey took the love triangle trope and basically said: hold my beer. The horrors of the home aren’t quite finished.
To get around Evelyn’s choice regarding motherhood, Nathan steals her research and resources to create a “more agreeable” version of his wife. He takes away Martine’s choice in the matter completely in creation. Nathan treats women not as humans but as an experiment to perfect. But what Sarah Gailey does next is truly masterful: Evelyn herself finds herself preferring the easier-to-manage Martine to further complicate the quandry. The very fact that Nathan used her research in the first place forces her to grapple with her own culpability as she tries to differentiate between Martine and other subjects in the lab.
“I didn’t need her to be perfectly obedient. I could handle her as she was. But I liked her better when she did as she was told. That didn’t mean that I was the same as Nathan had been. He’d created Martine to be this way; I was merely taking advantage of a thing that was already there. I didn’t forge the tool. I just wanted to use it effectively. That didn’t make me a monster. It wasn’t wrong of me, wishing she would behave as she’d been designed to.”
Evelyn isn’t the most likable character: she is selfish and knows it with an ego to boot. Sarah Gailey’s use of first-person perspective allows the reader to see Evelyn’s internal dialogue as she grapples with the situation: not just her hurt, but also the ethical implications. How her upbringing shaped her into the person she became. She’s pretty self-reflective but also quick to justify her actions.
“What right did Martine have to call on me? What right did Martine have to anything? She wasn’t even legally a human being, much less a friend. But then, I thought, Martine had called me. Even after everything I’d said, Martine had called me.”
The other theme I need to discuss is meaning of being and personhood. What does it mean to be a person? Is a clone a person? For Evelyn, the answer to that second question is a resounding no. In order to do her work, she has to think of the clones as subjects, things created for a specific purpose: organ harvesting, body double, etc. It’s a person programmed, not unlike a robot. But I ask you this: are we humans not programmed by society? What truly is the difference between indoctrination of social mores and neurocognitive programming?
Some of my favorite books are ones that at their core examine what it means to be human. The ones which play with our concepts of the limits of humanity by shifting definitions. The ones that show how we as a society so easily place those who are different from ourselves into the role of other in an effort to distance ourselves from the morality of our ethical misgivings. The Echo Wife is a book that will stay with you long after reading it and one I wholeheartedly recommend.
Highly recommended to readers who enjoy character-driven stories that explore interpersonal relationships. The science is but a mere vehicle to tell a unique love triangle story and the text is accessible for those not scientifically inclined!
Audiobook notes: The audiobook is narrated by Xe Sands, who did an incredible job bringing this narrative to live. a++
Recommended if you enjoyed…
Help I need comps so I can read more books like this I’M SCREAMING BEGGING CRYING
No two readers experience a book in the same way; this was mine, but what about you?
💬 Have you read The Echo Wife yet? If so, what are your thoughts?
💬 Did I convince you to add this book to your TBR?
💬 What sci-fi/domestic thriller crossover books would you recommend?