In Sarah Gailey’s novel The Echo Wife, Evelyn Caldwell is a celebrated scientist who specializes in cloning research. Her life is turned upside down, however, when she learns that her husband Nathan has cheated on her—by using her research to create a clone of Evelyn and sleep with her instead. The messy divorce has just ended when the clone, Martine, reaches out to Evelyn. It turns out, Nathan is dead, and Martine needs help, so Evelyn has to decide what to do.
Odd that I’ve read three of Sarah Gailey’s books now, and all of them have been just okay. This one is probably the best one I’ve read so far, though.
I listened to this on audiobook, and it happened to be narrated by the same person who did Plain Bad Heroines, which was totally the right choice. Xe Sands has a fantastic tone and cadence for this genre of slightly spooky fiction, and I was really happy to hear her again. It’s an excellent audiobook experience.
The concept of this story is fascinating—a nice twist on the usual domestic thriller. I liked the scientific aspects of it, as well as how Nathan’s betrayal actually played out. To not only lie to one’s spouse, but to steal her work from her to start an affair, is awful. And the complex relationship between Evelyn and Nathan is very well done. The star of the show, of course, is the relationship between Evelyn and Martine. The latter is the clone of the former, but also the mistress. It’s rocky and strange and unlike anything I’ve ever read. I can’t say that any of these characters are likeable (Nathan certainly isn’t), but I couldn’t look away from the multifaceted web between them.
We explore really interesting questions of identity, one’s own agency in their life, and about if behavior and personality are ingrained in a person’s genes or learned. These questions about what makes a person a person were great, especially for a Frankenstein fan like me. (This book isn’t explicitly inspired by that novel, but I can’t help seeing some parallel themes.)
This book is not very fast paced, which I don’t mind, though some readers might not like. However, it also has a couple of great twists that I didn’t see coming. At one point, I actually said “what?” out loud.
All that said, I didn’t like the ending. It fell flat for me, and I might even go so far as to say it was anticlimactic. I finished feeling pretty dissatisfied and surprised that the book was over. I felt like surely there was one last plot twist, one last dangerous confrontation to come, but no, it just ended. It was weird.
In the end, The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey is a compelling look at a trio of damaged people who definitely shouldn’t have tied themselves together so closely. The characterizations are wonderful, the twisty nature of the plot is engaging, and the themes of the book merit discussion. I was really enjoying this book right up until the end, which left something to be desired for me. Still, overall, I had a good time.
Overall rating: 8/10