Sunday, May 20, 2018

Surprise Me

Title:  Surprise Me
Author:  Sophie Kinsella
Publication Information:  The Dial Press. 2018. 432 pages.

ISBN:  0399592881 / 978-0399592881

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I have this secret little vocabulary for my husband."

Favorite Quote:  "I think a relationship is like two stories ... Like ... two open books, pressing together, and all the words mingle into one big, epic story. But if they stop mingling ... Then they turn into two stories again. And that's when it's over ... The books shut. The End."

Sylvie and Dan have been married for ten years. Life and marriage has settled into a routine. They are happy together ... for the most part. They know each other so well ... for the most part. They have a life together that works ... for the most part. "How many divorces are caused by the word nothing? I think this would be a very interesting statistic." Nothing is wrong, but is that good enough?

Sylvie and Dan don't pose this question much until an off the cuff remark by a doctor about life spans. It sets them wondering about the same old thing over and over again for how long? So, they set out to reignite the spark and to find a way to break the routine and to, as the title suggests, surprise each other.

So begins this book with a fun premise about a question many have been fortunate enough to consider. I say "fortunate" because the question presupposes a healthy, stable relationship in which life brings ups and downs but in no which no catastrophes (a death, an illness, a family crisis) emerge to make the daily routine something to covet. Sometimes, the reminders to be grateful are gentle ones, and sometimes, the routine is jarred and shaken to its core. This book has a bit of both.

Sylvie and Dan's first attempts at surprises are funny. Let's just say not all surprises turn out to be quite what the person intend. Also amusing are Sylvie's descriptions of her work with a nonprofit; I do wish that aspect of the story was more developed. As it is, it seems more there to fill space, interesting but tangential to the main story.

However, then the book takes a serious turn. Surprises turn into secrets, unpleasant secrets. The humor in the situation is lost in the serious concerns. The secrets come from a place of love but raise questions about the trust and the equality in a relationship between two adults. What secrets do you keep to protect the one you love? What trust do you place in your loved one and their ability to handle a secret? At what point does protecting someone go too far and become a commentary on their ability to handle the truth?  The book depicts Sylvie's perspective; I am left wondering what Dan thinks about this whole escapade. His perspective would add an interesting element particularly to the  more serious side of the book.

To some extent, this book is like two different stories - the first an amusing lighthearted one and the other tackling the more serious questions of parents, children, spouses, relationships, and even mental  health. The two didn't quite flow together for me. I am a little disappointed because I wanted the lighter, amusing story about two people rediscovering what brings them together in the first place.  The caring is there through the end of the book, but the humor and "feel good" portion of the story is lost along the way.

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

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