Husband and Wife

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Title: Husband and Wife
Author: Leah Stewart
Pages: 344
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Harper (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: May 4, 2010 (hardcover); April 19, 2011 (paperback)

Husband and Wife could have easily turned into a despairing book about the course of life and marriage. In fact, for the first quarter of the book, the first person narrative combined with what appeared (at the time) to be a long, monological whine led me to believe I would strongly dislike the book. Fortunately, that changed and I was able to enjoy this strong, yet still somewhat melancholy read that does, in fact, reflect on the course of life and marriage. And the more I've thought about this book since reading it the more I've appreciated it, and I've found that my mind focuses a lot on the things I really liked about it.

The book begins as Sarah and Nathan are getting ready to go to a wedding for friends -- one in which they're giving a joint toast on love and marriage. Nathan, caught up in some bad timing guilt, confesses that he cheated on Sarah two summers ago; that his soon-to-be-released book, Infidelity, is, in fact, based on truth. They go through the motions with attending the wedding, but things slowly unravel as Sarah reflects on why Nathan cheated, what it means about her, their marriage, who she has become, etc. And further, does she allow him to continue with publication of the book, even thought it means potentially sharing her defamatory secret with the world? All of Husband and Wife is essentially Sarah's introspection into her life and how she got to where she is from where she was, as well as a self-reflection as she processes what is happening to her in the moment. The storyline isn't necessarily the most original, but Sarah ultimately had some insightful and/or well-written thoughts that anyone in her situation can likely relate to. This first quote is Sarah thinking about the insomnia that hit her shortly after the marital crisis started.
"Of course I didn't know that this sleepless night would be the first of many. Even now it frightens me a little to talk about that time, my capital-I insomnia, because of the possibility that to invoke its name is to invite its return. Oh God, I hope that doesn't happen to me again, you think, and then, because you thought that, it will, and you'll wake once more into a bleak, remorseless stillness. You'll wander in a panic through the rooms of your mind and find them just emptied, as if your thoughts were bugs that scattered as soon as you entered." (pg. 95)
Although most of this book did have a more somber, reflecting tone, about three-quarters of the way through there was a surprisingly comical scene that fit so well into the story. That comic relief was a welcome change and, though short, added a lot to the characters and story.

Here is another metaphor that I liked. The quote is short but described the sentiment well:
"I checked the wall clock and saw that I'd been sitting in the cafeteria for two hours, when I was supposed to be at work. I didn't really care that I was absent, that I was irresponsible. Funny how the loosening of one commitment had loosened all the others, as if they'd all been tied by the same rope."
Ultimately, throughout Husband and Wife I mainly felt a deep sadness for the couple. Like so many couples, Sarah and Nathan are truly a great couple with such potential that basically succumb to the rigors and realities of life. Although it was largely reflective in nature, the writing was still engaging and don't let me make you think that the book was only Sarah thinking to herself. I was afraid of that initially, but there were other plot movements and character involvements that rounded out the story nicely.

For those interested, Book Club Girl will be doing a live interview with Leah Stewart on May 23, 2011 at 7:00 pm. Click on this link to bookmark where you can go to listen.

Follow the rest of the tour:
Tuesday, April 19th: A Cozy Reader’s Corner
Wednesday, April 20th: Tina’s Book Reviews
Friday, April 22nd: The House of the Seven Tails
Tuesday, April 26th: Colloquium
Wednesday, April 27th: Take Me Away
Thursday, April 28th: Books Like Breathing
Wednesday, May 4th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Monday, May 9th: Book Reviews by Molly
Tuesday, May 10th: Book Club Classics!
Thursday, May 12th: A Bookish Way of Life
Friday, May 13th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Book


Jenna (Literature and a Lens) said...

I like the sound of this one. Making an unoriginal storyline feel unique is definitely a quality of a good author. Loved the quote about insomnia...I think anyone who's had any experience with it can relate.

Juju at Tales of said...

That sounds so sad. I feel bad for them already. Thanks for the review!

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

I did enjoy this one, too. Maybe "enjoy" is the wrong word, however. But it engrossed me and kept me turning those pages.

I like your excerpts.

Zibilee said...

Though I am a little tired of all the infidelity in the books I read lately, this one sounds like ti has an interesting plot surrounding it. I would be interested to read just why she agrees to let him publish the book, and to find out what the fallout is to that confession. Very intriguing review, Jenny. It sounds as if I would probably get a lot out of this book.

heathertlc said...

I can't imagine being in this situation with my husband - what a shocker!

Thanks for the great review.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Like Heather, I'm a little tired of hearing about how couples can't keep their pants on, but it happens (often apparently). It depresses me sometimes. But if I am going to read a book about infidelity, it sounds like this would be the one.

Trisha said...

I shy away from books about infidelity; mainly because I get enough of it in film and television. :) Sounds like the author managed to make the topic unique though!

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Perhaps I would have reacted negatively to this book. Don't know why but just have the feeling I might not like it. This is not a book I would willingly pick up. Nice review though.

Tina said...

Fab review...Im reading this right now as well, its kind of depressing. However even with the sad concepts in a lot of these books, Im so in-love with comtemp. fiction this year!!

Audra said...

Like many of the other folks who commented, I tend to avoid novels with huge infidelity plots as I find them so upsetting -- but I do always enjoy a novel that explores relationships, love, and esp identity (in and out of a marriage). Your review made me add this to my TBR -- in case the mood catches me and I think I can handle it!

Jennifer said...

I'm kind of obsessed with marriage lately so this book definitely sounds interesting to me.

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