Book Review: The Forever Marriage

The story begins on an unsettling note.

A narcissistic woman has waited over twenty years for her husband to die so she could start living her life. As she sits at his death bed, she daydreams about her librarian lover and all the wonderful things she will be doing once her husband is gone.

In The Forever Marriage, Ann Bauer introduces an unlikely protagonist, one some readers may find unsympathetic. This sentiment was also shared by the many publishing houses—large, mid-size, tiny prairie—that rejected the original manuscript. On her blog, Bauer admits that she lost count of all the rejections that flooded in.

I liked this book and welcomed the honest portrayal of a flawed middle-aged woman reflecting on her past choices and present circumstances.

During her teen years, beautiful and spoiled Carmen came up with her own secret for success: “Don’t do anything half-assed and forget what other people think.” After her mother died and her father lost his job, this formula stopped working for her. Practically destitute and lacking any true direction, she allowed herself to be pursued by wealthy Jobe Garrett, a grown-up version of “those knobby math club boys with strange faces and bodies like wire hangers who seemed to exist only at school.” She accepted his parents’ financial and emotional support, forging a close relationship with Olive Barrett who enthusiastically welcomed and accepted her awkward son’s choice of mate. Later, Carmen admitted that she decided to have children mainly to please her kind and generous mother-in-law.

After Jobe’s death, Carmen is free to continue her affair and live comfortably on the proceeds of the life insurance policy. But her freedom is compromised once she is diagnosed with breast cancer. As Carmen faces her mortality, she re-examines her relationships with her family and friends. Her journey to self-discovery is not an easy one, and there are many uncomfortable moments as she wrestles with her regrets and considers her options for an uncertain future.

An excellent read.

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