Ralph and Jem have been together for, well, a long time. Long enough to have two children together and long enough to have that ennui, that boredom, that irritation with annoying little habits that they used to find cute to set in. They are both find stagnation in their lives and are trying to figure out what to do with their relationship, jobs, friends, etc. The really frustrating thing is that they don't talk to each other about it. Made me want to knock their heads together! They seem to make decisions in a way that is very adolescent, not very adult at all. Again, very frustrating. You know how it is when you have friends who are a couple and you can see them making all the wrong choices but there is nothing you can do about it but watch the train wreck? That's kind of what reading this book is like, although they do come to their senses eventually. I think that most relationships experience the same sort of frustrations, maybe to a smaller degree and with less catastrophic results, but similar none-the-less.
I happened to get asked to speak about marriage in church about the time I finished reading the book and ended up using a quotation from the book in my talk. Jem is looking at an orchid which had been a gift to her from her sister. The orchid had started out healthy and green but recently had shriveled and looked completely dead.
"But now, here was new life. All those months when it had sat there pretending to be dead it was just gathering its strength, biding its time. Before long there would be more leaves, a new arc of plumptious flowers. And as Jem stared at the small green bulb pulsing from the arid remains of the orchid, it occurred to her that maybe relationships were like orchids. Just because it looked dead did not mean that there was not still life in it, did not in fact mean that the relationship could not be once more spectacular. An orchid could die and grow, and die and grow and every time be transformed to its state of original splendor. So too could her love for Ralph, so too could their union.
Imagine, she'd thought, if she had been more organized, she would have thrown away the potted plant and never known that it still had life. The same was true of her relationship with Ralph. It had been perfect. It had been everything that Jem could ever have wanted from love and from a partnership. She had not come closer in all her thirty-eight years to such perfection. She could not throw it away because it had lost its blooms."
Good stuff! That section made putting up with their whining and non-communication worth it!
What I like best about the book: As the above quotation says, the love between Ralph and Jem couldn't be thrown away just because they hit a rough spot. A good thing for everyone to remember when the hard times come along.
What I didn't like about the book: I didn't like the way they handled the difficulties in their marriage; not talking to each other, flirting with others, drinking, drugs-all very immature ways of handling trials.
Was it clean? Not really, there were too many f-words particularly from one character, Ralph's friend Smith.
Would I recommend it? If you like books about relationships and don't mind the language, yes I recommend this book.