The Book Jam Blog
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It's almost summer, and it is definitely wedding season. We know a few twenty- to thirty-something couples who are headed to at least a dozen nuptials in the next few weeks. Their itineraries have us thinking about marriage, weddings, and of course books about marriage and weddings. Or, perhaps we are thinking about all this as we know many relationships need some TLC coming out of the pandemic; and, we hope we can provide some space for kindness and care. Perhaps we are just thinking about this New York Times article about the healing aspects of parallel play for adult relationships. Perhaps we are just romantics at heart and want you all to read about weddings and marriage. No matter the reason, today we review three options (two humorous fiction books and a memoir/self help book) to help you navigate your own wedding season, or relationship issues, or need for an entertaining tale, or...
Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipman (2012). Over a decade later, I still remember how much I enjoyed this tale of New England wedding plans gone awry. The marriage involves a seven months pregnant bride, two "old school" families, a family home on the island where generations of family members have "summered", resentments, jealousy, lust, ancient rivalries, and inappropriate crushes. It is told with Shipman's deft prose and superb humor. As The New Yorker said, “Shipstead seems at home in the Waspy milieu of private schools and their preening, privileged attendees. . . . A keen-eyed rendering of America’s self-invented caste.” Add some gin and tonics and lobster and enjoy! ~ Lisa Christie (seconded by Lisa Cadow)
This is How Your Marriage Ends by Matthew Fray (2022). Mr. Fray gained notoriety for a 2016 article - She Divorced Me Because I left the Dishes by the Sink - that he wrote placing his inability to put dishes away as the root cause of his divorce. Of course, that wasn't what really caused the demise of his marriage - dishes by a sink are trivial on so many levels. However, Mr. Fray argues that it was the disrespect represented by his inability to meet his wife's simple request that was the issue; ultimately it repeatedly illustrated that what was important to her did not matter to him. Not having dishes in the sink was important to her; his inability to pick up his dishes dismissed her needs. That repeated dismissal made her feel unloved and unimportant; she chose divorce to no longer feel that way. Mr. Fray turned his need to figure out what happened to his marriage into a blog, which became that famous column, which became a career as a marriage counselor. He has now turned that career into this book, using a combination of his own marriage experience and stories from his clients. I am not sure the solution to divorce is to cast blame on men for their inadequate emotional skills, and you could read this book as doing exactly that. I also know that some - hello Harvard Crimson - have criticised the author for turning women into purely emotional, irrational humans (I am not sure I agree with this critique, and I see where that critique is coming from). And yet, there was something about the deeply personal aspects of this book that touched me; especially when I chose to read his complaint that we aren't taught how to be married as applying to all humans, not just cis-gendered men. This is a weird review, as I am not sure who I would recommend this to or that I can wholeheartedly recommend it; and yet I can't stop thinking about the stories he shares and the hope he provides that humans can learn how to be better partners. Maybe I just appreciate what appears to be an honest assessment of how his behavior caused his beloved wife (and son) to leave. And somehow with the world being what it is right now, that hope and appreciation seem like reasons enough to read it. Maybe buy it to read with your partner and figure out what your "dishes by the sink" item is so you can avoid at least that one pitfall. ~ Lisa Christie
State of the Union by Nick Hornby (2019). The author of High Fidelity and other funny books, turns his humor on marriage in this pithy book about matrimony. Specifically, he explores a marriage that is falling apart and the lengths a couple will explore to fix it. As the indie reviewers wrote "Unfolding in the minutes before their weekly therapy sessions, the ten-chapter conversation that ensues is witty and moving, forcing them to look at their marriage--and, for the first time in a long time, at each other." Note: Its shorter length might make a great book club book. ~ Lisa Christie (seconded by Lisa Cadow)