Sunday, May 30, 2010
I didn't start calling my marriage a failure all at once.
At first I tried. I tried for years. I made all those little efforts, silly gestures like buying a CD called It's Not Too Late to Have a Great Marriage. I ordered from QVC because it had such a needy-sounding title that I was embarrassed to buy it from the local bookstore. With my luck someone would see me holding it in line and report back to all my friends. There's just the tiniest bit of hypocrisy around the whole issue -- everyone agrees you should Work on Your Marriage, but if you're ever caught actually Working on Your Marriage, you look ridiculous.
And the only thing worse than being unhappily married is being ridiculous.
So the CD series arrived UPS. There was a woman on the front of the box who was pulling her husband by the tie -- pulling him playfully toward a kiss. The back of the box explained that this man wouldn't talk. This man was detached. This woman was weepy and frustrated. She was demanding things he couldn't seem to give her. (Maybe she was demanding too much.) From the husband's expression it wasn't clear how he felt about being dragged against his will into this passionate new marriage.
There were six discs. I was supposed to listen to them for six weeks in a row and I did, squirreling the box away underneath my side of the bed. If I listened to one in the car I made sure to pop it out after each session. It wasn't just to hide it from my friends -- I was hiding it from myself. It's embarrassing to try this hard. I felt like a political candidate standing by the side of the road on election day, waving at every car that passes. I felt like a dog in a pet shop cage, an ugly girl at a dance. This painful eagerness, this hope that wore down every day but grew back at night while I slept. In time I came to understand that this hope was what I must squash, if I wanted to survive. And then one Sunday I sat there in a pew beside my husband and looked up at Christ dangling above me like he couldn't decide what to do either, and I prayed, "Okay, if you won't make him love me, at least make me stop caring." (This is the one prayer that would eventually be answered, although I didn't know it at the time.)
At the end of the series, on the very last track of the sixth CD, the woman therapist answers twenty commonly asked questions about how to revitalize a marriage. What do you do when he won't talk? When he works too many hours or you suspect there's another woman? When you disagree about the kids? When he brings you gifts that aren't your taste? When you feel so fat and unattractive that you're sure you can't draw his attention? When you feel so fat and unattractive that you don't want to? Did we mention he's not talking? Do only women live in the land of feelings? What do you do when you've tried everything andit still hasn't worked? What if it's just not the way you thought it would be? How did you think it was going to be? Can you even remember? The woman on the tape answers every question except one: Why do women stay?
In a starred review, Publisher's Weekly said this about Love in Mid-Air:
“Wright hits it out of the park in her debut, an engaging account of a woman contemplating divorce. Despite finally getting her husband, Phil, to attend counseling sessions with her, Elyse Bearden realizes her marriage is dead in the water. Though Phil’s a doting father and a decent man, he’s also the occasional jerk who snickers at his wife in lingerie and is generally indifferent to her. Elyse already knows she’s going to leave her husband when she meets Gerry Kincaid and soon begins an affair that allows her to escape from the crushing banality of her suburban life. Serving as Elyse’s foil is her beautiful best friend, Kelly, now married to an older, wealthy man.
While the idea of housewives complaining about their husbands over lunch may strike some as a conventional hen-lit trope, Wright conveys friendships and the blasé everyday with authenticity and telling detail, while passages depicting Elyse’s inner life are rife with the same wit and insight that infuse the dialogue. Though this story is one that readers may have seen many times before, Wright delivers fresh perspective and sympathetic characters few writers can match.”
Fiction For Dessert says:
An immersing read. The author's voice and knack for writing real and tangible characters pulls the reader effortlessly along to the very end. This novel is perfect for women's book groups not only because it is beautifully written, but because the subject matter, story, and character choices will undoubtedly arouse lively discussion.
Kim Wright has been writing about travel, food, and wine for more than twenty years, and is a two-time recipient of the Lowell Thomas Award for her work. She is the author of Fodor's Walt Disney World with Kids, and her work has appeared in Wine Spectator, Self, Travel & Leisure, and Vogue. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Love in Mid-Air is available at all major booksellers. A reading group guide and other information about this novel are available at www.loveinmidair.com.
Posted by Karen Cantwell at 9:31 AM