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Monogamy is one of the most important of the many vows we make in our marriages. Yet it is a rare spouse who does not face some level of temptation in their married life. The discovery of her husband's affair followed betrayals of Wendy's own, earlier in the marriage. The revelations of those infidelities had tested their relationship, but for Wendy, it was commitment--the sticking with it--that mattered most, and when her sons were born, she knew family had to come first. But with another woman and another family in the picture, she lost all sense of certainty.
In "Vow," Wendy Plump boldly walks one relationship's fault lines, exploring infidelity from the perspective of both betrayer and betrayed. Moving fluidly from the intimate to the near-universal, she considers the patterns of adultery, the ebb and flow of passion, the undeniable allure of the illicit, the lovers and the lies. Frank, intelligent and important, "Vow" will forever alter your understanding of fidelity, and the meaning of the promises we make to those we love.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-11-05
- Reviewer: Staff
A painfully told autopsy of her chronic unfaithfulness throughout her 18-year marriage becomes in the hands of freelance journalist Plump an excruciating exercise in self-realization. The discovery in 2005 that her husband, Bill, a corporate financial manager, had a mistress and small child living one mile from their home in Brandywine, Pa., moved Plump's already shaky marriage "into a new circle of deceit." Married in 1987, Plump had, early on and before the birth of her two sons, fallen into a pattern of infidelity with three other men, even revealing at one point her transgression to her husband. The marriage remained intact even after subsequent affairs by Bill ("He had an affinity for strippers"), culminating in Bill's 10-year relationship with Susan and out-of-wedlock child whom he managed to keep secret for a long time. Plump gradually reveals the degree of self-deception the two married people practiced over many years, as mismatched needs and gnawing mistrust fed their mutual appetite for risk, sex, and guilt. "What I wanted most, what drove me in every affair I had," she writes, "was the drug and energy of passion, of new intimacy." Plump manages in this frank memoir to fully capture her life—and woman, wife, and mother—who leaves nothing unexamined and has nothing left to lose. (Feb.)
For better or for the worst
Barely a year after her marriage in 1987, Wendy Plump embarked on the first of three volcanically passionate affairs she would immerse herself in before she and her husband, Bill, began having children. She did so, she freely admits, simply because she wanted to, because it was so exciting, so different from the humdrum of domestic life. But each affair was undercut by such feelings of guilt and the endless fatigue of covering up that she would ultimately confess them to Bill, who would first rage, then adjust. And so their marriage—later undergirded by the birth of two sons—continued to limp along.
Then, in January 2005, friends told Plump that Bill not only had a mistress living nearby in the same town, but that the two of them also had an 8-month-old child. (All these distressing details are revealed in the first chapter.) Plump was aware that Bill had strayed before, just as she had, but this news was devastating. Despite its glaring imperfections, she wanted her marriage to last. By the end of that year, however, Bill had moved out for good.
Plump and her husband had met in college and dated for eight years before they married. After college, she became a newspaper reporter, while he went to work as a financial advisor, a job that involved a lot of travel and which gave them both ample opportunities to find other sexual partners.
Having drawn the general outlines of their infidelities, Plump spends the remainder of her book examining where and how things went wrong. Even so, she doesn’t engage in a lot of blaming or self-excoriation. She still remembers her affairs as glorious interludes, and she understands that her husband’s temptations must have been much the same as her own. She does blame him, though, for steadfastly refusing to discuss his feelings for her or for the other women.
In 2008, Bill lost his job, the upshot of which was that Plump and her two sons had to move from their large home into a tiny rental property. It’s been mostly a downward spiral of disappointments for her ever since. Still, she finds comfort in recalling the vividness of her affairs. “When I am eighty years old,” she muses, “I will sit on my front porch, wherever that may be, and I will have sumptuous memories of these men. I will have to see if that is enough compared with the loss that infidelity has wreaked.”