The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey – Review
By Sandra Callard
The latest book by American author Sarah Gailey has a mind-blowing, futuristic plot which shocks and surprises on almost every page. The Echo Wife is a creepy and startling novel, the plot of which would make any reader doubt its possibility. It is, however, written with a cool assurance that enables the reader to accept the dubious scientific procedures, and the equally dubious results, as entirely valid.
The book opens with Evelyn, a renowned scientist, the receptor of numerous plaudits in regards to her work, and the celebrated guest at a function, being almost incoherent with fear as to what has recently happened to her.
Her husband, also a scientist, has left her for another woman, who has rung Evelyn and asked to meet her. When she does so, she sees that the woman is a total and absolute copy of herself, and realises that the woman is a clone, made by her ex-husband to be like her, but with the bad bits removed.
The plots and counterplots are gripping and mind-boggling, but Gailey writes in such a normal and persuasive manner as to make the clandestine work of the cloning of humans appear possible and terrifying.
“A page-turner of huge proportions”
The shifts of the plot are on a knife edge and the reader can accept that the chief protagonists in the story are a super-intelligent scientific woman and an ultra-female clone of herself. If this unlikely theme were exchanged for a different one, the story would still be a cracking murder mystery story, but the fact that the theme exists lifts the story to blockbuster proportions.
The character of Evelyn is masterly. Although her life is subsumed by her work, her towering intelligence slowly overcomes the reality of what has happened, and she begins to see a way forward.
I had some slight misgivings as the plot developed. This story is never going to be a book of familiar reading and known procedures, but it hooks you in the first few pages as you think “What on Earth…?”. But it is, without doubt, a page-turner of huge proportions, which to the avid reader is essential and compulsive, and in the end totally satisfying.
This book is intelligently written and just stops short of becoming a sci-fi horror, because procedures in the laboratory are specifically explained in a compact and understandable way without resorting to anything blood-curdling or explicit. It slowly becomes apparent to the reader that science can be gentle and probing and interesting, and not necessarily a Frankenstein horror.
For me this opinion lasted for a short time only after reading the book, but it is entirely possible to read this unique and original novel without thinking how impossibly stupid it is. It has got to be approached with a suspension of disbelief, but it is a bravely different and hugely entertaining take on the volatile mixture of science and emotions. I’d be happy to read more of Sarah Gailey’s books if they are all as beautifully entertaining as this one.
‘The Echo Wife’ by Sarah Gailey is published by Hodder & Stoughton, £17.99 hardback