Category Archives: Recipe for a Perfect Wife

Review: Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

Title: Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown
Publisher: Dutton
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (’50s), Mystery, Women’s Fiction
Length: 335 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


In this captivating dual narrative novel, a modern-day woman finds inspiration in hidden notes left by her home’s previous owner, a quintessential 1950s housewife. As she discovers remarkable parallels between this woman’s life and her own, it causes her to question the foundation of her own relationship with her husband–and what it means to be a wife fighting for her place in a patriarchal society.

When Alice Hale leaves a career in publicity to become a writer and follows her husband to the New York suburbs, she is unaccustomed to filling her days alone in a big, empty house. But when she finds a vintage cookbook buried in a box in the old home’s basement, she becomes captivated by the cookbook’s previous owner–1950s housewife Nellie Murdoch. As Alice cooks her way through the past, she realizes that within the cookbook’s pages Nellie left clues about her life–including a mysterious series of unsent letters penned to her mother.

Soon Alice learns that while baked Alaska and meatloaf five ways may seem harmless, Nellie’s secrets may have been anything but. When Alice uncovers a more sinister–even dangerous–side to Nellie’s marriage, and has become increasingly dissatisfied with the mounting pressures in her own relationship, she begins to take control of her life and protect herself with a few secrets of her own.


Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown is an insightful novel with a dual timeline and a slight mystery element.

In 2018, Alice Hall reluctantly leaves the city for the suburbs when husband Nate finds the house of his dreams. Alice is less than thrilled with their new life, but she hopes to take advantage of the opportunity to start writing her novel.  But she is not making much progress as she whiles away her time reading through the 1950s cookbook, magazines and letters  left behind by the previous owner, Nellie Murdoch. Alice is fascinated with Nellie’s life and begins to feel a kinship with her due to her growing dissatisfaction with her life and marriage. Both Nellie and Alice are hiding secrets but will Alice’s marriage fare better than Nellie’s?

Alice is keeping some important information from Nate, but she easily justifies her choices. She is also not all ready for the changes Nate is hoping for but she keeps her doubts to herself.  With Alice’s misgivings growing, she is soon immersed in Nellie’s life.  Intrigued by the recipes in Nellie’s family cookbook, Alice begins to dabble in preparing home cooked desserts and meals. She also truly immerses herself in the ’50s as she begins dressing in vintage clothes and trying her hand at gardening. She also makes a huge decision that is directly at odds with Nate’s wishes. When carefully crafted lies, secrets and decisions begin to emerge, will Alice’s and Nate’s marriage survive in the aftermath of shocking revelations?

Nellie is just starting married life with her older husband Richard in their new home. She is quite young but hopeful for her future. Nellie creates a beautiful garden and forms an unexpected friendship with her elderly neighbor, Miriam.  Eager to begin a family, Nellie and Richard are both disappointed when a baby proves elusive. But, as her cookbook and letters reveal, all is not happy within the Murdoch household. Richard is controlling and abusive but Nellie is no shrinking violet. With few options available to women, will Nellie escape from her increasingly violent husband?

Recipe for a Perfect Wife is a riveting novel with a delightfully unique storyline and colorful characters. Alice is not exactly a sympathetic character and many of her problems are of her making. Nate is charming man but as their once happy marriage begins to deteriorate, Alice realizes her husband is keeping a few secrets of his own.  Nellie is an extremely likable woman and she quite inventive as she stealthily handles her problems on her own. With some shocking twists and very unexpected turns,  Karma Brown brings the novel to an exceptionally surprising conclusion. A very clever novel that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend.

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Filed under Contemporary, Dutton, Historical, Historical (50s), Karma Brown, Mystery, Rated B+, Recipe for a Perfect Wife, Review, Women's Fiction