Thursday, March 6, 2008

Suburban Renewal by Pamela Morsi

The first time I read this book, it didn’t make a big impression on me either way—not great, not terrible, not especially memorable. Which was a little disappointing, because her earlier contemporary, Doing Good, had really hit me as a book with a fresh and unique premise. (On the other hand, if it had been really memorable, I might not have re-read it!) This one also follows a non-traditional pattern, by opening with a challenge from Corrie to her husband on the occasion of their 25th wedding anniversary: should we stay married, or not? The subsequent story is a framed flashback with the point of view alternating between Corrie & Sam. Their marriage survives a series of crises, ranging from the annoying to the catastrophic; economic, medical, family – every area imaginable, and each one pushes one or both of the partners to the very limit of their resources. It seemed more than a little soap-opera-esque, with a bit of an anti-climactic ending.

However, with a few more years of my OWN marriage under my belt, I have to say, the story of Sam & Corrie took on far more meaning to me. My husband and I are coming up on our 10th anniversary. Since my first reading of this book, our family has gone through, among other things, 5 moves, (two cross-country), 9 job changes, 3 elementary schools, the birth of our second child, and a certain amount of drama with our extended families. We keep waiting for life to settle down, and it’s true that we have weathered our various crises, but it does seem like there is always another one just around the corner. This book offers both hope: these crises can bring us together; we can survive them—and horror: the crises never end, so we’d damn well better learn how to manage them.

As the title suggests, both characters re-invent themselves—and their relationship—more than once. Herein also lies the hope (we can adapt) and the horror (who will we be when it’s all over?)

Morsi’s characters reach a satisfying resolution, IMO. I particularly enjoyed the coming-of-age story arc for Corrie & Sam’s son, and I found Sam’s words to Corrie at the conclusion of the book to be tender and moving.

As for my story, the ending remains to be seen. But I found Suburban Renewal to be heartening. It resonated with me.

1 comment:

Betsy O'Donovan said...

Ah, I love that I'm getting to read vicariously through you this week.

I think this is an interesting point -- that some romance novels that seemed distinctly unromantic to me when I was younger have taken on an entirely different cast as I have gotten older.

I'm also very interested in (and actively seeking out) stories that start with married people, or divorced people, or a wedding. I think it's some of the undertrodden ground in the genre: The daily construction part of the happily ever after.


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