cover image State of the Union: A Marriage in Ten Parts

State of the Union: A Marriage in Ten Parts

Nick Hornby. Riverhead, $15 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-593-08734-3

Hornby (Funny Girl) deploys his characteristic wit in this acerbic depiction of a marriage in crisis, already adapted for television. Tom, an unemployed 44-year-old music critic, and his wife, Louise, a 40-year-old gerontologist, meet in a pub across the street from their weekly marriage counseling sessions. Louise recently had an affair, and the two tussle over whether they even want to save their sexless, frustrating relationship. Although their pain and confusion pokes through, they disguise their emotions behind petty squabbles—such as their differing votes on Brexit and Tom’s antipathy for Call the Midwife—and playful banter, including discussing their imagined second marriages. Tom abruptly moves out of their house, setting up nearly absurd conversations in which Louise admits to telling their children a series of lies to cover his absence, and Tom is cagey about revealing his unpleasant living arrangements. Glimmers of their former closeness appear as they favorably and conspiratorially compare themselves to other clients of their therapist. The relative lack of non-dialogue text propels the immediacy and intensity as Tom and Louise teeter toward a hopeful conclusion. Readers who want an honest exploration of a relationship will be taken by the sprightly balance of difficult emotions and sarcastic humor.[em] (May) [/em]