Monday, May 17, 2010

Going Separate Ways

Happiness Sold Separately
by Lolly Winston

Howdy, blog universe. Nice to see you again. Life has been crazy lately - lots of good family stuff going on (plus G. getting pink eye, that was not so good), and I have not had as much time to write as I would like. I HAVE kept on reading, though, so stay tuned for the next couple of weeks as I write reviews on several good things I've read lately.

Happiness Sold Separately does not set the world on fire, but it is a book that deals with a serious subject without being too heavy handed, and that is worth something. Winston actually manages to make an adulterer into a character with whom we can sympathize, and that is not an easy thing to do. Ted and Elinor are the married couple around which the story evolves. They are forty-ish and at the beginning of the book have just finished a long and unsuccessful series of fertility treatments. Having been through some of that myself, and having many friends who have been through that anguish, I thought that Winston did a good job of capturing the sadness and loss that so many couples go through. She shows, rather than tells, how infertility can become the dominant theme in the relationship before the couple even realizes it. They wake up one day and see that they have forgotten how to have fun together or even talk about normal, everyday things. It is so sad, and Winston expresses it well.

Likewise, Ted seems like a good guy, even though he strays outside his marriage. He does not intend for it to happen, nor is he some kind of calculating predator. He just kind of falls into a second relationship, even though he still loves his wife. Without condoning such behavior, Winston helps us see how it can happen. Likewise, the "other woman," Gina, is not out to wreck a marriage or steal any one's partner - she is lonely and vulnerable and struggling to raise a son on her own. Ted provides a listening ear and a good influence on her son, and pretty soon the relationship has gone too far. It is not right, but no one goes into the scene with evil intentions.

The end of the book is bittersweet. I don't want to be a spoiler for anyone who might read it, so suffice it to say that all parties involved are genuinely invested in doing the "right" thing, but it is less and less clear what that is. Isn't that how life is, though? It may be less satisfying, but the ambiguity is also one of the story's strengths. Thing are not always (in fact they seldom) are as cut and dried as we want to think.

Reverent Reader


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