‘The Echo Wife’ by Sarah Gailey

2021, 254 p.


I’m not in the habit of getting book recommendations from the New Scientist, but when I saw this review, I thought that it sounded interesting. My library, which insists on putting genre labels on its books, describes it as a ‘thriller’, while the blurb on the front describes it as ‘Big Little Lies meets Black Mirror’. I guess that it is a mixture of all three, but I thought that it also raised questions about coercive control and domestic relationships not suggested by its marketing.

Evelyn Caldwell is an acclaimed developmental biologist, who is at the top of her field in adult cloning research. Her marriage, under strain for some time, has failed and her husband Nathan has left her for a younger, less driven woman happy to give him the children he craved. She had been aware of ‘the other woman’ for some time, but this was a more fundamental betrayal. Nathan had been using her own research in adult cloning to develop a copy of her, but less intelligent, more pliable, more maternal and less threatening.

And that’s probably as much as I will say, because I don’t want to give away the story, but suffice to say that it branches into murder and crime, as well as its science-fiction-y premise of adult cloning. Our narrator, Evelyn, is insensitive and unaware, and she has her own back story of a bullying father and a nervous, anxious mother – both of whom she resembles at all times, even though she consciously tries to avoid doing so.

One thing that did not strike me about the book was the New Scientist designation of it as “a comedic look at the risks of cloning”. I found little comedy in this book at all. It raises questions about identity, autonomy and coercive control, and I was not completely surprised to read the author’s lengthy ‘acknowledgments’ where past abuse is still very present.

This book is probably more commercially-marketed than I am accustomed to reading, it’s not high literature, and it is more plot-driven than I prefer. At times the plot strained credulity and the ending was far too neat. But for all that, I found it compelling and disturbing, with more depth than I expected.

My rating: 7.5 out of 10

Sourced from: Yarra Plenty Regional Library

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