The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey
Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be. And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband.
Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and the Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up. Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED FEBRUARY 16TH, 2021
Evelyn Caldwell is at the peak of her career…and nothing is going right.
Sure, she earned a prestigious award, and basically paved the way for future cloning research, but her lab needs funding, her new townhouse needs unpacking, and her cheating husband is sleeping with her. In a sense.
Because he’s actually sleeping with her clone, the model of who he wanted Evelyn to be, and everything about the situation is sending Evelyn’s life deeper and deeper into a tailspin.
But when Nathan Caldwell ends up dead, it’s up to Evelyn and her clone, Martine, to make sure things get done. There are precautions to take, crimes to cover, and most importantly, decisions to make about their futures, if they can even count on having futures at all.
Long story short, this is all the dangers of having a clone condensed in one place, and I LOVED IT.
There’s something incredible about the way Sarah Gailey makes you root for Evelyn, even though she’s a cold sort of woman who feels more for her work than most kinds of human connection. In part, it’s because you hate her ex-husband more than you could ever possibly hate her, because Nathan is, as the summary puts it, a bastard. Plain and simple, exactly what it says on the tin.
Except it goes deeper. It always, always digs deeper than you’re ready for, making The Echo Wife incredibly sharp and gripping even in a short span of pages. There’s a reason behind everything Evelyn does, everything she thinks, everything she relays onto the page, and it’s about control. It’s about success. It’s about defying her history, her lineage, her ex, and carving out the life she wants for herself, on her terms alone.
And Martine complicates all of that. She is Evelyn, except she isn’t. They share the same face, the same mannerisms, and yet Martine is warm and docile where Evelyn is standoffish and curt. Everything they do from the moment Martine seeks Evelyn’s help forces them to work together and reckon with each other’s existence. Especially important are the ethics of cloning, ethics which could face a total overhaul and cause a loss of funding for Evelyn’s research if word about Martine’s origins got around.
If you think this is a simple, straightforward story about a bad ex with even worse intentions, think again. Because it’s not about Nathan.
It’s about Evelyn, same as it always was.
Some folks may have some trouble with the POV, though I certainly adored it.
Mostly, it’s Evelyn’s precise, detail-heavy narration that I can imagine some readers will dislike. Personally, I loved it. It’s a testament to her need to be in control, proof of her attention to detail. She lets nothing slip through her notice, because she dreads surrendering her power to anyone. Evelyn Caldwell built herself from the ground up, and owes that, she thinks, to no one else.
(And I have no doubt some people will read The Echo Wife and call Evelyn cold, or even a bitch. Which is, in many ways, the point. She’s not nice, but she’s damn fascinating every step of the way!)
Evelyn’s clinical approach to everything from growing bodies in her lab to confronting her clone in the flesh contrasts beautifully with the unsure but determined approach Martine has towards the world. Martine is everything Evelyn is not, particularly when it comes to being quiet and pliant to the whims of those around her. By all rights, the only thing that should connect them is their shared DNA. But all through The Echo Wife, Evelyn is forced to reckon with the things she and Martine share, things that cannot be attributed to their identical genetic makeup, and it’s intensely personal.
In short, there’s very little not to like about The Echo Wife.
Clever and introspective, with a bit of well-deserved justice here and there, it delivers on every count. Just when it seems like the solution could be simple, it twists over on itself and becomes convoluted once more, with characters that bask in a messy complexity fueling every turn along the way.
Thankfully, if it sounds like something you’d like to read, it hits shelves very soon, on February 16th! That’s only a few days away, so if you think you’d want to pre-order it, now’s the time! Or, of course, see if your local library will fill a request to place it on their shelves.
And in the meantime, while you wait, maybe think about the ethics of cloning, the obstacles that might lie in the way. Whatever you come up with is almost sure to await you in The Echo Wife. 💍
CW: abortion, smoking, domestic abuse, gore, violence, nudity, medical scenes, suicide