Feast Days stars the wife of a young, ambitious American banker who has been dispatched to Sao Paulo. She is jobless, adrift, and curious about the country she just landed in. She tries her luck as an English tutor and experiences the ambitious status of that position. She goes to protests. She travels. And she reminisces about her husband’s and her courtship, which contrasts badly with the unravelling state of their marriage. The race and tone seem to unravel by the end of this (short) novel but the first two thirds are brilliantly captured.
Tag Archives: marriage
The Heart Is a Shifting Sea: Love and Marriage in Mumbai collects the stories of three Mumbai couples, from courtship to about a decade into their marriages. They have different religions and ages, and all middle class. And they struggle, with affairs and stepfamilies, and general unease at having married someone they no longer recognize. I suppose one could enjoy the voyeur’s view of these couples’ lives. I found the stories mostly dull.
An American Marriage stars an African-American couple whose husband unjustly (and incomprehensibly) is sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. The story takes us back to the beginning of their relationship into the future, when he is eventually released. And it’s a story that will make you want to turn the pages, at least until the release where it gets all strange and “off”, at least to my taste. The complicated decisions and feelings of those two are wonderfully described.
The young bride in Straying has an affair, and describes it in beautiful prose and masterful time shifts — both of which contrast sharply with the lack of rational decision to engage in it, or even stay in it. Perhaps she married too swiftly, or just needs to grow up a bit?
Not exactly a Valentine Day story, A Separation stars a wife in a marriage that’s already failed — except that the husband’s parents have not been told. When the husband disappears on a solitary trip to Greece, she is asked by her mother in law to investigate and travels there to uncover the sad truth. There’s very little action in the book, mostly reflections on herself, the marriage, and inspired observations of the locals and her in-laws. If you like slow-moving, introspective literature, this one’s for you.
I did enjoy some of the insightful rumination about the various characters, whether the tightly controlled father in law or the receptionist who perhaps, definitely, had an affair with her husband, But navel gazing is not my thing
Esther Perel claims that affairs can have positive consequences, but judging from the many dozens of stories of intense pain, destruction, and resentment contained in The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity (stories contrasted with only a handful of positive ones), it seems that infidelity continues to be a very bad idea. The strength of the book seems to be more in the willingness to take an honest look at the taboo, and explore the mindset of both affair participants and victims almost clinically, without judgment or preconceptions.
Eli Finkel is married, mostly happily it seems, he is a psychology professor, and he also appears to be a big nerd. His book, The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work, rests on the interesting premise that modern mores may load too much on marriage, namely that expecting our spouses to be companions, lovers, best friends, co-parents, and also boosters of our self-growth may simply be unrealistic. I’m tempted to agree.
That said the book starts by quoting Eat, Pray, Love (yikes), uses charts that any academic should be ashamed of (with more non-zero scales than Tufte himself can shake a stick at), relates experiments that are so specific that I doubt they show anything significant about anyone’s marriage, dips all too frequently into self-help silliness (although he makes some interesting reframing suggestions to avoid reflexive blaming), and relies heavily on the Maslow pyramid of nonsense (double yikes!)
But that one idea, yes, is quite useful!