It isn’t often that one author can achieve success in so many different genres. Sarah Gailey is one such writer. They’ve done everything from an alternate US history (featuring hippos in the Mississippi) to YA teen witch drama to the anti-fascist queer-pulp Western. Their latest work, The Echo Wife, is a foray into the domestic thriller, of a sort. Even though it’s a new genre for them, it has all the captivating twists and shocks I’ve come to expect from Gailey’s work.

The Echo Wife centers on a famous scientist, Evelyn Caldwell, renowned for her research and perfection of the cloning process. Evelyn is brilliant yet cold, thriving academically while her personal life is in shambles. Her husband, Nathan, recently left her for another woman who, according to him, is everything Evelyn is not. Martine is warm and quiet, agreeable and even docile. Martine is also Evelyn’s clone, one that Nathan created using research stolen from his ex-wife.

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Soon after Evelyn and Nathan separate, Martine calls her in a panic. Nathan is dead in the kitchen. Martine killed him. Evelyn arrives to find the house covered in blood, but that’s not the most shocking part of the night. Even though Evelyn made it impossible for clones, Martine is pregnant with Nathan’s child. In spite of everything, the two women must team up to keep the world from finding out about Martine and what she’s done.

At this point, I was completely hooked. Gailey created a truly original and interesting story out of the expected, turning the common tropes of a cheating husband and the other woman on their heads. I found myself rooting for Evelyn and Martine and their team-up throughout the novel, no matter how deep into trouble they got.

For those looking for a breakneck thriller, this isn’t quite it. The marketing team behind The Echo Wife describes the book as perfect for Big Little Lies and Killing Eve fans; however, I feel like this is a little misleading. The Echo Wife is more of a suspense novel with sci-fi elements than anything else. That’s not to say there aren’t shocking moments; it’s just more of an introspective and literary character study than a fast-paced thriller or salacious drama. The scientific elements were not overpowering either. While there were in-depth explanations of Evelyn’s development of the cloning process, it wasn’t hard to follow as a layperson who hasn’t taken a science class in at least five years.

The Echo Wife is creepy and unconventional, and the end of the novel presents a series of dark events that leave both the readers and the characters reeling. Gailey’s newest novel is trippy, realistic and transportive. They put a fresh sci-fi twist on a fairly typical premise, and the story will stay with you long after you’ve reached the final page.

The Echo Wife comes out on February 16 from publisher Tor Books. It’s currently available for preorder from your local independent bookstore or Bookshop.org.

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This review was originally posted 1/21/21

 

Alex Faccibene