As soon as I found out Taylor Jenkins Reid had a new short story out (thanks to an e-mail from Goodreads!), I immediately went to download it from Amazon (it’s free with Kindle Unlimited!). As I began it, I was immediately drawn in and thought the old Taylor Jenkins Reid was back. The one who wrote One True Loves, Maybe in Another Life, and After I Do. She wrote complicated romances so well and made you fall in love with multiple people at the same time for the protagonist. But then came The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which was so unlike anything she had written before and that book just wasn’t for me. I wondered if that was a one time thing, or her writing had taken a new turn. With the upcoming release of Daisy Jones and the Six, it seems like maybe she has left those early romance days behind, and that has left me disappointed (but I will still give it a chance and read it when it comes out probably). But onto the story:
The entire story is epistolary and takes place over the course of a year, with letters written between Carrie, who has just discovered her husband is cheating on her, and David, who is married to Janet, who is also “the other woman.” And it takes place in 1977 because it wouldn’t be realistic for people to be writing letters like this today when they could just e-mail, facebook, etc. Which makes me wonder why the story was written in 1977? Only to make it more believable why characters would be writing letters in order to draw the story out? Outside of that, I don’t see any real indicator of the year the story is taking place in, and it just makes me question her writing all the more. If you place your story in a different time, I just feel like there should be a why.
Carrie was only 19 and in college when she met her now husband Ken, who was in his last year of medical school. She had to drop out to move with him when he matched to a residency program in Chicago, and then to LA for a fellowship. She had wanted to be a teacher (because that’s what everyone else was doing), and her parents didn’t want her getting married so young (at the age of 21). They wanted her to get some experience of living independently, but she didn’t listen and got married. All these years later and she wants to go back to school, but Ken doesn’t want her to because they’ve been trying to have kids and not been able to. He said to her, “If it’s not happening when I’m home and relaxed, it’s definitely not going to happen if I’m up and out of the house all day.” Um, wtf? She should have dumped him the second he said that, but she stayed with him and gave up a part of herself instead. But even that wasn’t enough because he started cheating on her with a woman he met at a conference.
Then there is David, whose wife is cheating on him with Ken. David is a high school biology teacher who is always trying to work more hours so he can try to make ends meet for their family of six (him, his wife, and four kids). Instead of his wife being thankful, she resents him for how poor they are and for the fact that he wants her to work to help support them (but she doesn’t).
It’s Carrie who finds out about the affair and writes to David to let him know. And at first, this had me hooked. But then they keep writing back and forth about the same things and it’s very repetitive and my interest was lost by the 30% mark. It’s clear that neither of their spouses are good for them, even if they hadn’t cheated, and I was just bored. The story doesn’t pick back up until the 80% mark, so half the book was just a waste for me.
But this is truly a tale about two people who are trying to come to grips with the fact that their spouses are cheating on them. Despite finding out, neither is ready to confront their spouse or want to leave them yet. They keep hoping that things could just go back to the way they were, while at the same time coming to terms with the fact that things weren’t great even before the affair, and maybe it’s taken an affair for them to really examine their marriages. They start reflecting in all the ways they’ve failed their spouses, but also how they’ve drifted away from their spouses and vice versa.
And the rest is slightly spoilery, so I will put it under a cut:
Meh, I just didn’t see much of a point to this story. And half the characters weren’t likeable anyway. I thought this would re-ignite my love of TJR and I might finally read Forever Interrupted, but nope. This book has just left me sad and… annoyed I wasted any time reading this. I’m glad I got it for free with Kindle Unlimited because it’s not something I would pay for.
And a note on the book: I absolutely hate the font they chose for David’s letters. It was almost impossible to read. I had to magnify the font by a lot, and even then I struggled. That was just a HORRIBLE choice. And unlike other Kindle books, even if you try to change the font to something else, it won’t let you. It’ll force you to stay and strain your eyes on this one. Something really needs to be done about that.
Other books by Taylor Jenkins Reid:
One True Loves ★★★★
Maybe in Another Life ★★★★
After I Do ★★★★
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo ★★
Evidence of the Affair ★
Daisy Jones and The Six