A hilarious and emotionally charged novel about a couple who embark on an open marriage-what could possibly go wrong? Read more...
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A hilarious and emotionally charged novel about a couple who embark on an open marriage-what could possibly go wrong?
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?"
- ISBN-13: 9780316013598
- ISBN-10: 0316013595
- Publisher: Little Brown and Company
- Publish Date: March 2017
- Page Count: 368
- Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2017-01-09
- Reviewer: Staff
Dunn (The Big Love) again plumbs the messiness and fallibility of romantic relationships in her latest novel. This time, the couple at its center, inspired by rumors of how well such arrangements have worked for acquaintances, embark on an experiment in open marriage, with hilarious results. Lucy, exhausted by caring for the couples young autistic son, proposes the test run, and Owen, equally burned out by his uninspiring career, eagerly agrees to abide by the ground rules, which include a strict six-month time limit. Complications naturally ensue, especially when one member of the couple breaks rule number two: No falling in love. Owen and Lucys misadventures are interspersed with quotes from a fictional self-help guru (and decided monogamy skeptic), as well as with glimpses into the equally imperfect love lives of Lucy and Owens friends and neighbors in their idyllic Hudson Valley village. At times these minor characters foibles border on the cartoonish, but they nevertheless contribute to an overall levity of tone that helps buoy what could otherwise have become a veritable catalogue of failing relationships. (Mar.)
The unexpected effects of an open marriage
It only requires a few pages of Sarah Dunn’s sad, funny novel to spark a line of thought: “Are there still people like this? People who drink Ridge Zinfandel and slice their grass-fed wagyu beef with Laguiole steak knives? Don’t they know that Donald Trump is the President?” More on him later, by the way.
The bobo protagonists of Dunn’s story are Lucy and her husband, Owen. Their marriage has gone a bit stale, due not in small part to their son, Wyatt, a ghastly child for whom Lucy has put aside her career to care for full time. It’s one of the many ironies of the book that this little beast is more biddable in the care of his harried dad. At least Wyatt doesn’t spit in Owen’s face and scream, “I hate you!” all the time.
To revive their marriage, to let it aerate a little, Lucy and Owen agree to sleep with other people for a six-month period. The ground rules are no falling in love, snooping or leaving. (So much for that.)
Dunn, a television writer for “Spin City” and creator of “American Housewife,” draws the reader into Owen and Lucy’s situation while painting a lively picture of their neighbors. They live in a tidy, Starbucks-free burb called Beekman, accessible to Manhattan via Metro North. Neighbors include Sunny Bang, a busybody as kind as she is up in everyone’s grill; and Mrs. Lowell, the transgender school teacher who arouses the transphobic wrath of town billionaire Gordon Allen. You know who he’s based on because he’s on his third wife, doesn’t pay taxes, and Alec Baldwin harangues him for being a climate change denier.
The book charms with the author’s compassion for all her foolish, bumbling characters. All everyone wants, she says, is a little tenderness, from the horrible Wyatt to the horrible Gordon. The Arrangement will make you smile.