"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton
This is where I chronicle my reading life. I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.
I was excited to read this book which promised to be an exploration of the history of marriage in America, interspersed with stories from Cokie and Steve Roberts's own long marriage. Still, rather than successfully integrating research, fact, and memory the way the best memoirs do, this book felt as though it were actually two different books that just happened to share the same space, and moving between the two was jarring. The sections about Cokie and Steve, while containing a few interesting anecdotes and reflections on the changes they saw in their own marriage, reeked of unexamined privilege (they assume their kids will go to Ivy League schools, mention that 700 people came to their daughter's wedding, and namedrop all the important correspondents, politicians, etc., they hobnob with). They were also basically just edited transcripts of Cokie and Steve talking about marriage, which was less moving to me than it would have been to read some more reflective writing that came from them directly; although this probably gave a better feel for the "dynamic" of their relationship, since you saw the back and forth of the conversation. Still, I was interested in a narrative, not an interview.
Cokie and Steve are both smart people and competent journalists, and while there's nothing really wrong with the writing here, it's less engaging than it could be. The historical sections are overwhelming with long paragraphs and too many names to keep track of, although, like the transcripts, they contain moments of higher interest.
Still, not one of the strongest marriage books I've read, nor as compelling as I would have liked it to be to help me forget I was 36,000 feet in the air (I read over half the book on my trip to Puerto Rico.)