It has been a long while since I read a book that really shocked me to the core. I used to love reading Edith Wharton because all of her novels are downright pitiless. Richard Yates managed to get to that level in a way that not many writers can. It requires a lot of courage and the willingness to see the truth without shying away.
The novel starts out rather generically with broad strokes in characterization. That kind of put me off for a bit because it seemed way too careless. But I stuck with it and slowly Yates started to add more personal touches until I knew the characters to the bone. By the end I was enmeshed and fully engaged with the Wheeler family.
This novel explores the disintegration of a marriage that should have never occurred. Frank Wheeler and April Wheeler were a young and confused couple. Each of them were seeking the other to give them a direction in life. When April becomes pregnant, a hasty marriage, boring job and a house in a tony Connecticut neighborhood seems to be the right direction. At the start of the novel this arrangement is already in the process of falling apart. April tried to make a failed attempt to start anew in a community theater project. Which causes her to breakdown and reexamine her life with Frank. In the aftermath of the fighting the couple decide to take a wild leap and move to Europe. But the closer to the time of the impending move, life throws out extreme changes once again. Suddenly April is pregnant once more and Frank receives a big promotion in his job. The pregnancy leads April to make disturbing discoveries about herself and her marriage to Frank.
The novel is well written, extremely truthful and not for the faint of heart. But it gives huge insight into how people can sleepwalk into bad marriages simply because they are not paying attention or don't want to take responsibilities for their decisions.
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