Books·Canadian

Recipe for a Perfect Wife: A Novel

Recipe for a Perfect Wife is a novel by Karma Brown.

Karma Brown

When Alice Hale reluctantly leaves a promising career in publicity, following her husband to the New York suburbs, she is unaccustomed to filling her days alone in a big, empty house. However, she is determined to become a writer — and to work hard to build the kind of life her husband dreams of, complete with children.

At first, the old house seems to resent Alice as much as she resents it, but when she finds an old cookbook buried in a box in the basement, she becomes captivated by the cookbook's previous owner: 1950s housewife Nellie Murdoch. As Alice cooks her way through the past, she begins to settle into her new surroundings, even as her friends and family grow concerned that she has embraced them too fully: wearing vintage dresses and pearls like a 1950s housewife, making elaborate old-fashioned dishes like Baked Alaska, and drifting steadily away from her usual pursuits.

Alice justifies the changes merely as research for her novel … but when she discovers that Nellie left clues about her own life within the cookbook's pages — and in a mysterious series of unsent letters penned to Nellie's mother — she quickly realizes that the housewife's secrets may have been anything but harmless. As she uncovers a more sinister side to Nellie's marriage and with pressure mounting in her own relationship, Alice realizes that to protect herself she must harbour and hatch a few secrets of her own. (From Viking)

Karma Brown is a novelist from Ontario. Her other books include Come Away with MeThe Choice We Make, In This Moment and The Life Lucy Knew.

Why Karma Brown wrote Recipe for a Perfect Wife

"I had this very clear vision of Nellie in the 1950s. I pictured this '50s housewife cooking from one of the cookbooks that I own — as I have a number of retro cookbooks that have been passed down through my family. I had this clear picture of her planning her meatloaf for the day and working in the garden. 

I have a number of retro cookbooks that have been passed down through my family.- Karma Brown

"That made me wonder what her life really looked like back then. It seems simplistic on the surface, the role of the housewife — but what does it look like underneath that? As a woman, how does she feel with those sort of constraints on her for what she can do?" 

Read more in her interview with The Next Chapter.

Interviews with Karma Brown

Karma Brown on comparing marriage today and in the 1950s in her novel Recipe for a Perfect Wife.

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