Jenny's Reviews > Husband and Wife

Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart
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Aug 11, 11

bookshelves: read-in-2011

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.

Taken from my blog at www.takemeawayreading.com
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