“Marriage doesn’t hurt the cuddling or even change the sex all that much, but it does do something very bad to kissing.”
I could pick about 52 million relevant quotes from Sarah Dunn’s amazing novel, The Arrangement, but I think this one sums it up best. I was not prepared for how funny and how deep and how thought provoking and how meaningful and how poignant this was going to be. This is a story about a couple, Owen and Lucy, who, after many years and one child together, decide to experiment with an open marriage. That idea doesn’t appeal to me personally, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a marriage-killer either, so I wasn’t expecting that this would especially resonate with me one way or another. Turns out I’m not always so good at the predictions, because this became an instant favorite.
I almost never feel like I relate to marriages in novels, because it seems like fictional couples only argue about big issues, and if there aren’t any big issues, like affairs or financial catastrophes, everything is just peachy. This book does a great job showing how an ostensibly little thing can spark months of simmering resentment. There is a great scene where Lucy is trying so hard not to be a nag, she really really doesn’t want to be a nag, but, um, when do you plan on cleaning out the garage, because I really don’t want to be a nag or anything but last year you said you would and you didn’t I’M NOT TRYING TO BE A NAG. On the other hand, Owen is very respectful and patient and loving and all, but he also can’t help but wish that, now that they’re five years into parenthood, Lucy would go back to taking a little more care in her appearance and maybe even wear lipstick again sometimes? Please?
So, yeah, there was some stuff I could relate to here. The writing is laugh out loud funny and razor-sharp. Lucy and Owen are the main draw, but the subplots and side characters are also very entertaining. (Sunny Bang, be my friend!) There is a great plot about an aging douchey billionaire on his fourth wife; a lot of the scenes involving their lack of a pre-nup are hilarious, but my favorite thing in the whole book is when he is keeping tabs on his estranged adult daughter. He knows she runs a “trendy dry-goods store” in Vermont but doesn’t know what the hell that means, so his PI sends him a box of items from her shop, which includes “a tea towel with a quote attributed to somebody named Margot Tenenbaum.”
This scene ends with the line: “Gordon just wanted one of his kids not to be a total shit.” I hated Gordon, but I get it.
Sarah Dunn has two other books that I’m going to get to ASAP, and I may even watch some episodes of American Housewife since I’m now a Sarah Dunn superfan. Big thank you to the fab Michelle Gable for recommending this one. This book is lovely, funny, bittersweet, gives no easy answers, and is worth every moment. In a word, marriage.