Announcing the Reader’s Digest Book Club Pick for April 2020

Why you'll want to read Recipe for a Perfect Wife, Karma Brown's enthralling fifth novel.

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Recipe for a Perfect Wife
Photo: Courtesy of Viking Canada

What it’s about

Part Julie & Julia, part Desperate Housewives, Karma Brown’s fifth novel, Recipe for a Perfect Wife, tracks two women, two generations apart, who are trying to maintain their independence despite stifling marriages. Our modern-day heroine is Alice Hale, a publicist living in New York whose husband convinces her to leave for a ramshackle old house in the ’burbs, where he pressures her to start a family. In alternating chapters, we meet Nellie Murdoch, a Mad Men–era housewife who conceals a passionate, acerbic mind behind her apron and home cooking. Overwhelmed by the endless cycle of housework and maintenance in her new home, Alice discovers a box filled with Nellie’s old magazines, as well as a cookbook annotated with her quirky notes, and starts digging into her predecessor’s secret life and abusive marriage.

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Baked Alaska dessert
Photo: Lesya Dolyuk/Shutterstock

Why you’ll love it

Brown’s book is a modern, compulsively readable twist on the classic Gothic novel. For Alice and Nellie, the drafty old house is a suffocating stand-in for the traditional demands of domesticity: motherhood, marriage, cleaning, cooking and the pressure to maintain a placid façade. Like Mr. Rochester’s wife and other Gothic heroines, Alice finds herself going a little crazy as she chafes against her restraints. The novel is also a gripping mystery, as Alice strips away the layers of Nellie’s story—and the secrets of the house—to discover the truth about her tragic, troubled marriage. Kitsch-loving foodies take note: the novel doubles as a cookbook, filled with fully functional recipes for such 1950s-era delicacies as baked Alaska, tuna casserole, chicken à la king and all things jellied.

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Canadian author Karma Brown
Photo: Courtesy of

Who wrote it

Karma Brown, who lives just outside Toronto, originally planned to work in TV news. After surviving cancer more than a decade ago, she reconsidered her priorities and realized her true love was writing. In the meantime, she’s written for several magazines and her debut novel, Come Away With Me (2015), was a critical hit and bestseller. Brown has published an astonishing four more novels in as many years. Her first non-fiction book—about how you can reclaim your time—is scheduled for publication in 2021.

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Wife doing housework while lazy husband watches
Photo: Diego Cervo/Shutterstock

The truth about who’s really doing housework

Nearly three quarters of households are dual income according Statistics Canada. But just because women are taking on more work outside the home, this doesn’t mean that men have been taking on more within it. Here’s a look at how household tasks are split between men and women in Canada today:

  • In 2014, 16 per cent of couples with children had a stay-at-home mother while only two per cent had a stay-at-home dad.
  • Men are doing an average of 2.4 hours of domestic work a day—but it’s still 50 per cent less than the 3.6 daily hours done by women on average.
  • Mothers who work long hours are more likely to do extra housework than men in the same position. Eighty-six per cent of mothers who worked eight or more hours a day did chores at home compared to only 65 per cent of men who did the same amount of paid work.
  • One place fathers have picked up the slack? Meal prep. The proportion of dads who help out in the kitchen has almost doubled in the past 30 years.

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Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada

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