Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Intermission

Title:  The Intermission
Author:  Elyssa Friedland
Publication Information:  Berkley. 2018. 368 pages.
ISBN:  0399586865 / 978-0399586866

Book Source:  I received this book through Penguin First to Read free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Jonathan and Cass Coyne watched as the bride opened her mouth to receive the first bit of wedding cake, a four-tiered monstrosity covered in fondant roses and edible pearls."

Favorite Quote:  "Marriage shouldn't mean becoming one person, with each spouse swimming inside the other's private thoughts. No, the best relationship were built like Venn diagrams of two overlapping circles, where the only variable was how big the shared part was and how much remained for the individuals. The real question was how much overlap was enough."

The seven-year itch. Ok, Jonathan and Cass have only been married five years, but the seven-year itch seems to be what is ailing Cass. The term, which has its origins in an actual physical ailment, now refers to the psychological phenomenon that marital happiness declines and divorce rates climb around the seven year mark of a marriage. It seems to be the theme of this book.

Jonathan and Cass have been married five years, seemingly happily so. They have attended many weddings, always competing with each other to guess how long the marriage will last. They actually keep track on these conversations about their friends. They compare who predicted it correctly and who came closer. Of course, of themselves, they say theirs will last forever.

That is, until year five. Cass decides she needs a break. She does not want to separate or divorce; she just wants to take a break and think. Fortunately, there are no children involved as yet. The conversation, in fact, arises because one is ready for that family and the other wants to make absolutely sure that this marriage is the right thing. A custody issue arises, but it relates to the dog.

I find the premise of the book promising. A look at marriage after the honeymoon period wears off can provide a lot of food for thought. Two individuals questioning whether or not they made the right choice should involve thought and self-reflection. The fact that their doubts have roots in childhood experiences has the potential to add further depth to that story. We all bring baggage to relationships, and communications is generally deemed the key. In Jonathan and Cass's case, the key seems be an intermission.

Unfortunately, neither Jonathan nor Cass are particularly likable characters. That can still work in the story because perhaps it will be about overcoming and balancing each other shortcomings. Perhaps, it will be about loving someone despite differences. Unfortunately, Jonathan and Cass's both seem completely self-involved. The book tells the story from both their perspectives. I find Jonathan's perspective to be slightly more sympathetic, but truly find neither likable.

The book covers six months in almost 400 pages. Clearly, the book is character rather than plot driven. The plot, in fact, is somewhat episodic. Unfortunately, the main human characters do not seems to change or evolve significantly in the book. The intermission resolves - I won't say if it ends in divorce or reconciliation. Secrets, some expected and some unexpected, emerge; none of the secrets are truly shocking or climactic. The most interesting character sadly is the dog Puddles.

The consequence of that is that I end up not really caring about the outcome. To some extent, I end up feeling that no matter what happens, they do it to themselves. The premise of the book seems to be about how well you really know your partner; the book goes more in the direction of how well do you really know yourself. The lesson I walk away with is don't judge a book by its cover or a relationship by its outward appearance.

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

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