What a weird and cool little book. From the mind of Sarah Gailey, author of the brilliant Magic for Liars, comes another stunningly original work where humanity and the fantastical overlap.
Evelyn Caldwell has achieved everything she set out to do in her life. She’s heading a lab, working on groundbreaking experiments, being recognized for her achievements in her field and was even able to find someone to live happily married with.....for a time. Her former husband, Nathan, has moved on. His new wife Martine is everything that Evelyn is not; she’s pliable and submissive. She wants all the same things as Nathan, including having a baby. But Nathan didn’t meet Martine—he made her. She’s a clone of Evelyn, taken from her own research, and tweaked to fit her ex’s specifications. And up until this point Evelyn has had no reason to get to know this copy of herself, until Martine calls her, frantic, asking for help.
This was a premise that has everything I’m looking for in a science-fiction thriller. Gailey masterfully blends typical human motivations like jealousy, revenge, longing and betrayal with an exciting scientific advancement that feels close enough to appreciate, but also just out of reach. There’s enough of a basis in reality where you don’t feel like you’re too far away from plausible. All of the characters have distinct personalities and feel like people you could (and maybe even do) know in real life, but with just a subtle sinister twist. So small that you don’t notice it fully until you’re already in deep.
In addition to the stellar characterizations, there’s a lot of reckoning with complex ethical questions around cloning and genetic engineering in humans. What makes a person a person? Is it wrong to manipulate biological and psychological factors in order to get a desired outcome? And based on some of those themes in the novel, it’s not hard to see how those questions extend outside of a clinical setting. In the author Acknowledgements, Gailey discloses pieces of her experience with abuse, and the reader is left to sift through the implications of what Nathan, and to an extent Evelyn, have done to Martine through that lens. It’s a deeply uncomfortable thing to sit with in the absolute best way.
I’m so glad my second Sarah Gailey book was such a success. The Echo Wife is easily one of the best things I’ve read so far this year! Looking forward to more from this author and *hopefully* some kind of adaptation down the road.