The Forever Marriage by Ann Bauer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Forever Marriage
by Ann Bauer
From the publisher's description: "The Forever Marriage is at its heart a mystery, and the mystery is what, exactly, the nature of Carmen and Jobe's marriage might have been. Page-turning and irreverent, The Forever Marriage is a compelling examination of a relationship and of a woman facing up to her imperfect past. It merits comparison to the best work of Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Berg, and Alice Sebold."
I loved it: because of the characters, who are flawed and complicated and surprising; because of the excellent writing and storytelling; because of the way the story alternates between the past and the present, giving us a more complete picture as the pages turn of what might really have led up to the great dissatisfaction with which the main character, Carmen, has had to cope throughout her married life. I have known Carmens and I have known Jobes and it is interesting to think what happens when two such different people marry and create a family and life together. People are drawn to their opposites and marry for all sorts of reasons, many of which they are unaware of at the time they make the choice, when young and not yet with a complete understanding of who they are.
Carmen, the main character, seems at the start to be a real bitch. Even her best friend seems to think so. She is not emotionally attached to her lover, but uses him to make up for the lack of sexual activity in her marriage. You may not respect Carmen or like anything about her at first, but hang in there. Typically, if I do not like the main character of a novel, it is hard for me to stay with it, but I'm glad I did in this case. I trusted the author, and she honored my purchase of this book and confidence in her by revealing to me an understanding of human nature and the complexities of love that wowed me.
Even though there are universal themes in this book, I've never read a story quite like this, and that is one reason why I enjoyed it so much. Yes, it dealt with cancer, adultery, a child with disabilities, but I didn't find it depressing or uplifting, but rather realistic in the aspect that all of these main characters, Carmen, the late Jobe, the lover Danny, and the mother-in-law Olive, as well as the boy with Down's Syndrome, Luca, were all more than they seemed at first glance and more endearing by the end of the book than at the start.
I also loved the descriptions of mathematics and how as the book progresses we see that perhaps Carmen loved Jobe more than she thought she did. And he certainly loved her, though at some point I wondered, what was it he needed that she was never able to provide? How did he cope with that? It was interesting to see how the author added dimension to this character of Jobe as the book progressed.
I thought the title of the book was a brilliant choice.
This is the first book I've read by Ann Bauer. I found her writing at Salon.com when doing a Google search under autism. I then went to her website and ordered her two novels. I hope she is writing a third. I find her characters and storyline insightful and memorable.
--Reviewed by Janice Phelps Williams, Sept. 9, 2012 www.janicephelps.com
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