Next month my husband and I will celebrate our forty-ninth wedding anniversary. A milestone in this day and age. Just one more year to the big five-oh. When we started out so long ago I never gave any thought to what that might feel like. All I knew was, like most of the people who were involved in the wedding, it seemed like the most natural next step of any couple they had known.
Does that mean it was all smooth sailing? By no means. Sure, we had some fantastic times, some great years, some major laughs and accomplishments. Looking back on those years I can’t imagine experiencing them with anyone else. But, and here’s the big kicker, there were some tough times too. Some of them were scary, some were disappointing, some were depressing, some were painful. How did we get through them? I’m not exactly sure, other than to say hard work.
That’s what marriage is in the long run, hard work which, if you stick with it, has glorious results. Why would I say that? Because all those experiences, good and bad, easy and hard as nails, combine to deepen your relationship beyond what you ever thought possible.
Often over the years we have seen couples who, when they began to hit the bumps and bruises, would look across the fence and decide the grass truly is greener. They abandoned what they had in search of a better ‘happy’. Not that all couples should stay together, either. Some couples are not suited, some situations are not to be tolerated. And, only the couple inside the relationship knows if that’s the case for them.
So, when someone recommended this book, Last Couple Standing by Matthew Norman, I knew I was in for a roller coaster ride. I wasn’t wrong, either. From the beginning you know you’re in for some kind of disaster, you read it to find out what that disaster is and whether or not there will be any survivors. The story is told with a combination of hard truths and humor, and the writing is so excellent you are pulled into the book with the first sentence. Here’s my review, with no ending spoilers as that is something you need to read for yourself.
So, from the first sentence you know to expect this story to be a train wreck. Yet, from the first sentence, it’s so engaging, you steal yourself for the heartaches you expect to come and you read anyway. The characters who make up the story are so engaging, and so well formed, you are immediately engaged in the story and begin hoping the train wreck won’t really be so bad.
As you read, the train wreck in the making is softened from time to time with some off-beat humor as well as some passages that smack of total reality about couples who fall in love, marry, and well into the marriage struggle to stay married for no apparent reason. It’s all highly plausible for anyone who has been married and gotten beyond the first years of a romantic love.
In this book, there are eight people who meet in college and eventually marry, forming a four couple unit. They are close knit in every way, socializing together, living close to one another, and being actively involved in one another’s lives. The story begins with flashbacks to how they all became a group, and essentially starts with where there are now, almost two decades into marriage and cracks starting to show. Without highlighting those cracks or recriminations on the part of splitting spouses, three of the couples break apart. This brings the story to the main focus of the story, the forth couple, Jessica and Mitch. Suddenly they find themselves as the last couple standing, and begin to question the energy in their marriage.
Most readers will find themselves rooting for Jessica and Mitch. They seem to be a perfectly suited, lovely couple and the desire is to see them succeed in maintaining their relationship. Perhaps the truth is, most readers also see Jessica and Mitch as the embodiment of what people want a “good marriage” to be. They want to see it succeed as it gives hope to those who want to have a successful marriage of their own.
There are plenty of “oh, no’s” in this book, as well as, “well, that’s just funny” moments. There are times when the reader may find themselves wanting to scream at the book “Don’t do that! Don’t you know that’s a huge mistake?” The characters and situations are real enough you want to reach into the pages of the book and grab them by the arm to pull them back from the precipice. Of course, it’s a book. You can’t. All you can do is read on and hope things turn out like you want.
I won’t give away the ending of the book. That’s something every reader should discover for themselves. I will say there are some truths uttered here, amongst the fiction, the angst, and the humor, that might be beneficial for couples to read before walking down the aisle. Or, barring that, when years after saying their “I do’s”; that famous “seven year itch” hits, whether it happens at seven months, seven years, or even seventeen years. What I will say is, this is a book not to be missed. It is filled with human emotions and situations without taking the reader to an emotional brink. I might almost make it required reading for anyone contemplating marriage or divorce.
My thanks to Ballentine Books with Random House Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an advance digital reader copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
Here’s hoping I’ve piqued your interest in this excellent book. For anyone in a relationship, contemplating a relationship, leaving a relationship, etc. you may find some comfort, some wisdom, or at the least a little smile here. Regardless, Happy Reading.