Friday, May 11, 2018

The Arrangement

Once upon a time I considered asking Matt what his thoughts about open marriage were. It wasn't that I was unhappy, I was just unfulfilled. Things got stagnant but I knew I didn't want to get a divorce. In hindsight, I'm so glad I didn't and that we didn't go that route but that was the reason I wanted to read this one.
The Arrangement - Sarah Dunn

Lucy and Owen, ambitious, thoroughly-therapized New Yorkers, have taken the plunge, trading in their crazy life in a cramped apartment for Beekman, a bucolic Hudson Valley exurb. They've got a two hundred year-old house, an autistic son obsessed with the Titanic, and 17 chickens, at last count. It's the kind of paradise where stay-at-home moms team up to cook the school's "hot lunch," dads grill grass-fed burgers, and, as Lucy observes, "chopping kale has become a certain kind of American housewife's version of chopping wood."

When friends at a wine-soaked dinner party reveal they've made their marriage open, sensible Lucy balks. There's a part of her, though – the part that worries she's become too comfortable being invisible-that's intrigued. Why not try a short marital experiment? Six months, clear ground rules, zero questions asked. When an affair with a man in the city begins to seem more enticing than the happily-ever-after she's known for the past nine years, Lucy must decide what truly makes her happy – "real life," or the "experiment?"

I'm going to start off by telling you I'm rating this one three out of five stars and I didn't do that lightly. Not that that is a bad rating but I'm noticing people see three stars and wonder WTF is wrong with the book. There isn't anything wrong, I just feel like while it got a lot of things right, there were a few missteps along the way that were too much for me to overlook to give it a higher rating.

So in this book we primarily have Lucy and Owen, parents of a child on the spectrum that comes with a lot of challenges, they live in the 'burbs, they are the American Dream. They have chickens and debt, they have unfulfilled jobs and sex life. They are written to be all of us. After a rather intriguing night with another couple, they learn that they practice an open marriage and they call it their little arrangement. They seem happy and closer than ever but they have these side things going on, nothing overlaps and it's all alright. So Lucy gets to thinking and proposes it to Owen, who at first, is appalled. But then they come up with some hypothetical rules and suddenly their own arrangement is put forward.

Owen finds a side piece rather quickly is local nut job Izzy Radford, but Lucy takes her time and finally ends up with Ben. Things get out of hand for both of them and one of them breaks one of the rules- they fall in love. Everything comes to a head when one wants to go back to their normal life and end the arrangement and the other is contemplating leaving the marriage and staying with the side piece. Someone gets cancer, someone has a come to Jesus discussion about arrangements and it's a LOT of plot in one book.

Some things I want to quote from the book because I don't do that near enough. But this spoke to me on a woman to woman level:

"Your window?"
"The window wherein people other than the man I'm married to will be willing to have sex with me without, I don't know, being financially compensated in some way."

That's on page 27 so rather early on in the book but man, if that doesn't sum up my life I don't know what does. But there are others, two more that are "quotes" from (what I can find) someone named Constance Waverly, who is a fictional relationship expert of sorts.

On page 309, "What I find amazing is this: that two individuals who have zero genes in common can create a strong enough bond to stick together for a lifetime".  And page 334, "We all have a strong preference that life should be easy, comfortable, and pain-free, but that doesn't mean there's something wrong with life when it isn't those things. It's just life. It's just life adn it's not how you would prefer it to be, but that doesn't mean there's something wrong with it."

Both of those just stood out to me because they may be from a fictional person, but they sum up marriage and adulthood  in general.

Now, if the book was just Lucy and Owen and their arrangement gone awry, this would have been rated higher. Where the book fails for me are all of the other subplots going on. The teacher becoming a woman, Gordon and Kelly, Gordon and Simka (which was weird)Susan and Rowan, it's just too much and I felt like I was ping ponging all over the place waiting for some greater connection. Sure, it all kind of comes together in the end but not enough for me to rate it higher than 3.

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