The word 'wife' is, as the 21st-century begins, so fraught with ambiguity that it has become a litmus test, eliciting from women emotions ranging from longing to antipathy, anxiety to derision. This telling ambiguity is at the heart of Anne Kingston's The Meaning of Wife.
Delving into the complex, troubling, and sometimes humorous contradictions, illusions, and realities of contemporary wifehood, noted social critic Kingston takes us on a fascinating journey into the wedding industrial complex, which elevates the bride to a potent consumer icon; through the recent romanticization of domesticity; and across the conflicted terrain of wifely sexuality. She looks at "wife backlash," and the new wave of neo-traditionalism that urges women to marry before their "best-before" dates expire; explores the apotheosis of abused wives and the strange celebration of wives who kill; and muses on the fact that Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart, two of the world's wealthiest and most influential women, are both non-wives whose success has hinged on their understanding of wives.
The Meaning of Wife is an entertaining mix of social, cultural, sexual, historical, and economic commentary that is sure to challenge, inform, and enlighten and even as it reframes our view of both women and marriage.