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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Last Couple Standing: How (Not) To Save a Marriage?

All your friends are getting divorced. You want to prevent a similar fate from befalling your own marriage. So what do you do? Naturally, you start sleeping with other people! Makes perfect sense! You want to "inoculate" your marriage against infidelity, so you go ahead and preemptively inject it with the cheating "vaccine."  (I may be watching waaaaay too much CNN these days.)

Committing adultery to save a marriage may sound crazy, but it sure makes for a great novel. Matthew Norman's fantastic new literary rom-com, Last Couple Standing, is about Jessica and Mitch, an early-40s suburban Baltimore couple with two kids — as average as average can be. But they're reeling from the fact that their three best-couple-friends (best-friend-couples?), with whom they've been close since college, have all recently split. So Jessica and Mitch take a serious look at their own ostensibly happy marriage to try to head off divorce at the pass.

What they decide is that wanting to have sex with other people, but not being able to, but then doing it anyway, is what breaks a marriage. So they come up with an agreement with some very specific rules that will allow them to pursue objects of their individual affections without blowing up their happy marriage.

Think about that Seinfeld episode where Jerry and Elaine come up with rules to sleep with each other, but remain friends. This is a little like that. But then cue Costanza, as the voice of reason: "Where are you living? Are you here? Are you on this planet? It's impossible. It can't be done. Thousands of years people have been trying to have their cake and eat it too. So all of a sudden the two of you are going to come along and do it. Where do you get the ego? No one can do it. It can't be done."

So, yep, naturally things go a bit awry. The couple consummate their new agreement to varying degrees of success...and failure...and hilarity. As jealousy and bad feelings begin to emerge, the question becomes: Will this treatment be successful? Or will the attempt at prevention accelerate the disease?

This is a really funny novel — a hip, hilarious tale of contemporary marriage; another terrific entry into the "dude lit with heart" genre. And, for what it's worth, the last scene of this novel is one of the funniest I've read in a long time.

One of things I appreciated most about this novel is that it departs from the standard "sad, self-deprecating guy" as the narrator that seems to be the storytelling mode for a majority of dude lit. Don't get me wrong, I like that, too, but it was nice to see a different approach here. If you've read and enjoyed writers like Jonathan Tropper, Nick Hornby, or Norman's first two novels, Domestic Violets and We're All Damaged, you will love this too.

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