willaful's Reviews > The Marrying Kind

The Marrying Kind by Ken  O'Neill
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Jun 24, 12

bookshelves: arc-gift-or-netgalley, m-m, first-person, made-me-cry, made-me-laugh, rated-g-or-pg
Read from June 20 to 24, 2012

I'm mostly a genre reader, so I tend to want to classify what I read. The Marrying Kind is a toughie -- like the recent book The Bro-Magnet, it sort of cries out for a category called Dudelit, with its first-person narrative by a lovably flawed protagonist on a slightly over-the-top comic journey of self-discovery. Except unlike most chicklit protagonists, Steven isn't looking for love; his problem is that he's found love, but it's not recognized.

Steven Worth has a pretty much perfect life, with his partner Adam and their cat "kids." They're even thinking about real kids someday. But despite his current state of well being, Steven doesn't feel that far removed from the fat kid known as Steven Worthless he once was, and he tends to be diffident and conformist: "My idea of bucking the system is insisting on saying 'large' instead of 'venti' when I order my Starbucks coffee."

When a series of events hit Steven and Adam in the face with how unfairly they're treated as a gay couple, they find themselves almost accidentally starting a movement boycotting weddings -- no small thing, as Adam is a wedding planner. (The story is set in New York in 2007, before same-sex marriage was legal there.) At first, Steven is thrilled to use his columnist job to promote the boycott: "Now I, too, was in the fight to obtain equal rights. I felt inspired, confident, and strong. Three words never before used in a sentence describing me." The situation gets sticky when Steven's brother and Adam's sister announce their engagement, and Adam refuses not only to plan the wedding, but even to attend it. Steven, sentimental and romantic, already feels bad for the people whose weddings are being ruined when gay bakers and florists and caterers back out; being forced to miss his own brother's wedding has him feeling torn in two.

I don't want to say any more about the plot, other than that I was surprised and delighted by where it eventually went. My only wish is that we had seen an epilogue set after the law change in New York, in which Steven and Adam got married. But as an author's note points out, even in states that recognize same-sex marriage, same-sex couples "continue to be denied the 1,138 federal rights and responsibilities of marriage that are afforded straight couples." Perhaps O'Neill thought such an epilogue would mitigate his point.

Although humorous in tone, The Marrying Kind is, at heart, a very tender story. Adam and Steven are sweet together, but love of family members and friends is also integral to them. I found it more the kind of book you chuckle at than laugh-out-loud funny, and not all of the efforts to be comic came off; I most enjoyed charming throwaway lines like "Being Protestant, Adam never actually ate before we met." For much of the book, it felt like a pleasant three-star read to me, but I was so impressed with how O'Neill pulled off the ending, made his point -- and made me cry -- that I'm going with four stars.
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