Monday, January 30, 2017

Pretty Little World

Title:  Pretty Little World
Author:  Melissa DePino and Elizabeth LaBan
Publication Information:  Lake Union Publishing. 2017. 320 pages.
ISBN:  1503941027 / 978-1503941021

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

Opening Sentence:  "If Celia had been paying attention, she might have notices the signs - the pipes clanging much too loudly when she turned on the shower, the water pressure dropping off just enough to prevent her from completing rinsing the conditioner out of her long blond hair, the dirty water that had backed up into the utility sink in the laundry room."

Favorite Quote:  "You are so hard on everyone ... So black and white. Don't you think that in the course of a, say, fifty-year marriage, and that's if you're really lucky, that there's going to be a lot of gray? That things are going to happen that you didn't expect, that you never factored in? Things that you are just going to have to accept, somehow, and get past?"

The premise of this book - a modern day commune - is intriguing. Three couples - Celia and Mark, Hope and Leo, and Stephanie and Chris - are close friends. They live in adjoining row houses on a residential street. The book begins with the assumption that their closeness extends to being together every night, raising their kids together, and essentially doing most things together.

One couple makes the difficult decision that they need more space in a home and need to move away. A water leak in one houses break through one of the walls between two houses. This gives birth to the idea of joining homes. The three families will share an open first floor living space that encompasses all three houses. The upstairs will remain private to each. They will share home duties, from the care of the kids to the shopping to the cooking to the cleaning. They will all contribute to a shared household account.

Oh, and they will also share the secret. They decide that they will tell no one about this living arrangement because of a fear of what people may say to them or their children. That, to me, is a hole in this story. Why keep it a secret? And how? They turn down play dates for they children and other friendships to keep their secret. Neighbors question, but they turn them away with explanations. Also, practically, they manage to convert three houses into one with no one finding out about the construction. If this is the right choice for them, why the secrecy?

I am still intrigued enough to see how they make the living arrangements work and the impact it has on the adults and the children. The impact on the children is not really dealt with at all. Perhaps, it is because the children depicted are rather young, but they do seem as placeholders in the parent's stories. The children are depicted in highlighting parenting and co-parenting issues rather than as unique characters in and of themselves.

The impact on the adults touches on some deep issues. How do you measure contribution to a household - money, household chores, etc? Is it necessary to measure and equalize that contribution? How does the relationship between a husband and wife change when they are continuously surrounded by others? How do you keep the priority on your relationship when always functioning in a group? In a crisis, do you differentiate between those who are your actual family versus the broader constructed family? What is the boundary of friendship and responsibility for a friend's marital issues?

The book touches on these issues but does not develop them in depth. The plot also pursues some of these questions in story lines about sexual fantasies and pursuits and those not necessarily between spouses. This focus seems to come to the forefront, and, for me, detracts from the book. Marital issues exists in and out of communal living; I would rather the focus had stayed with the story lines centered around the shared living experience.

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

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