Tag Archives: marriage

** The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

Arthur Pepper of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a bereaved widower who finds an unfamiliar bracelet in his deceased wife’s belongings and sets out to understand how she could have come to own it. In the process, he uncovers years of her life he knew nothing about, along with a new zest of life. It could be as uplifting as the 100-Year Old Man Who Jumped Through the Window but it seems forced to me, and very sad since I figure that Arthur would feel betrayed that his wife never mentioned any of her pre-marriage adventures to him, while holding on to the bracelet that obviously meant something to her.

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*** Willnot by James Sallis

It’s hard to describe the story in Willnot, because it’s not so much a crime story (there are many corpses, or rather skeletons) but more the description of a couple, a small-town physician and his partner, a teacher (they are both men), who together may be the most inspiring literary couple I encountered this year. If you are looking for a good  police investigation, you can find it elsewhere, but for a thoughtful, perfectly described domestic story, read this.

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* 1/2 Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies shows us both sides of an apparently successful marriage. The first, told from the perspective of the husband, a successful playwright who wanted to be an actor, relates his triumphs in stultifying details. The second, much more interesting because devilishly twisted, shows the perspective of the apparently devoted wife. The author manages to cram a rich heir, forgery, a forced baby’s abandonment, and two undetected homicides into the story, which seems a bit much. She also gets details wrong. Walking from Stanford University to San Francisco is not possible in an afternoon (and BART does not reach Stanford, sadly). And cassoulet in Brittany is as unlikely as public transportation in Silicon Valley. Altogether a rather mediocre experience for me, although critics loved the book.

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*** Hide by Matthew Griffin

Hide is a jewel of a love story. It stars an aging gay couple, one being the narrator and the other declining fast from the stroke-induced fall in his tomato plants that kicks off the story. The two met decades ago, but in their small North Carolina town and back in the day, they chose to hide their relationship from everyone, family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. As Frank gets sicker and sicker, his partner frets, reminisces, and mourns the life they used to have, however restricted they had to make it. There have been many books about declining partners, about the hardship of being a caretaker, and about love that needs to be hidden, but this story brings all these themes together in a lovely, humorous, and tender whole. Bravo!

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*1/2 Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos


Summerlong is a summer book in both senses of the word: the action takes place in the summer, and it’s perfect for a summer read — so this review is a little late.

The central characters are a husband and wife with money and marital problems who discover that they may find happiness with others, and who messily stumble into other people’s hammocks, beds, pools, and garden shacks, while other tangled relationships come to light in a small college town. The story starts promisingly with chance encounters and well-observed reflections on marital frustrations, but turns increasingly grandiose and unlikely. It’s probably fine if you read it quickly, in the sun…

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* Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont


I must have a twisted mind because I rather enjoyed the premise of Among the Ten Thousand Things, which features a jilted lover sending her entire correspondence with the man who dumped her to his wife. Sadly the box is opened not by the wife, but by her teenage children (I did not like that part!) and nothing good comes out of that.

So the book is really about a marriage blowing up, and it seems we have read many such story. The author structures the story cleverly but it was pretty boring, to me.

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** The Ugly Wife is a Treasure At Home by Melissa Margaret Schneider


Written by an American couples’ therapist,  The Ugly Wife Is a Treasure at Home: True Stories of Love and Marriage in Communist China is a compilation of interviews of Chinese women and men on the topic of their relationships. I found it most successful as a record of how quickly cultural views of love and marriage have changed in China since 1950, when revolutionary fervor was supposed to replace and supplant family or romantic love, to today, when patterns of dating and marriage are converging with those in the West. The changes came mind-boggling fast. That said, the interviews get rather repetitive, even boring, and the book would have benefitted from a good copy editor.

 

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Filed under Non fiction