Thursday, December 15, 2016

Separate Lives

Title:  Separate Lives
Author:  Kathryn Flett
Publication Information:  Quercus. 2016. 288 pages.
ISBN:  162365114X / 978-1623651145

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I know it's a cliché, but it was the text on Alex's phone that did it."

Favorite Quote:  "I don't believe in regrets - why dwell on the past when there's so much future to fuck up and then pretend not to have any regrets about?"

A statement in the book about summarizes the book. "And I can see that if this was all written down, it might look quite funny, on paper, but in real life it's not funny at all. None of it." That's about how I feel. The premise of the book sounds good in a summary writeup. The cover poses the question of whether a woman leaves or stays upon the discovery that her husband may be involved with another woman. The premise implies this is to be a book about relationships and especially as relationships start to flounder. It could be a book about powerful emotions that apply to real life. Written in a certain way, I suppose it might even be funny. Unfortunately, that is not what the book delivers for me. Not emotional, powerful, or funny.

Alex and Susie are a couple with two children. They are not married but have been together for a long time, comfortable in their relationship. Yet, strains appear. It would appear that Alex is having an affair. That introduces "P" as Susie knows her. "P" suggests that Alex may want to live a different life. The identity of "P" is not a mystery in the book; only Susie remains unaware at least for some time.

The book is told from the perspective of these three people - Susie, Alex, and "P." Susie's sections are a straight up narrative. Alex's sections are told through emails and text messages, primarily to his other siblings. P's story is told through letters to her mother. Also involved in the story are friends and family, particularly Alex's siblings.

This book starts off slow, as no real introduction is given for the characters. They pop up in this big circle of family and friends. Gradually, the perspectives clarify, and the plot picks up. The middle part of the book is perhaps the most interesting with the individuals revealing their back stories and trying to figure out their path forward. Unfortunately, the ending circles back, with new ideas popping up suddenly.

A lot of the book becomes about keeping straight who is sleeping with who and who has slept with who in the past and who might sleep with who in the future. This is true right up until the end of the book. I suppose the twist introduced is supposed to be a surprise. However, at that point, I don't really care who has done what or what happens to any of them because the biggest issue is none of the narrators is a sympathetic or even likable character.

The book is a set of characters for whom infidelity is the norm and for whom respect for family and family relationships is sorely lacking. These are adults with children, but the children appear as just placeholders in the story rather than actual concerns of the parents. For me, the book is not emotional or funny as the cover claims, but just sad for the behavior of these supposed adults. This book reads somewhat like a soap opera minus the hero or heroine to root for.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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