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Book Review :: How to Stay Married by Harrison Scott Key

How to Stay Married by Harrison Scott Key book cover image

Guest Post by Eleanor J. Bader

Thurber Prize winner Harrison Scott Key’s third memoir How to Stay Married: The Most Insane Love Story Ever Told is a heartbreakingly honest, and often hilarious, account of marital infidelity and the resultant fallout from what he calls “an absurdist nightmare.” Hyperbole aside – this isn’t the world’s most insane love story – the book lays bare the complex and fragile ties that bind. How they fray, sometimes without us noticing the unraveling, is clearly presented. What’s more, Key delineates the many pressures, from demanding jobs to demanding kids, that can stymie communication and lead to spousal dissatisfaction. Key’s astute analysis digs into the psychological wiring that initially drew him and his wife together and, later, caused them to separate. But this is not a self-help treatise. Instead, it’s a very particular story about a very particular marriage and Key takes pains to avoid oversimplification.

That said, the book emphasizes that Key got through this period thanks to good friends and Christian faith. And while he concedes that religion is not always a source of comfort, in conjunction with therapy and a deeply-felt appraisal of his missteps, it provided the foundation for him and his wife to reconcile. For them, shared values, shared time, and shared laughter proved potent. Whether they’re enough, however, remain open questions.

How to Stay Married: The Most Insane Love Story Ever Told by Harrison Scott Key. Avid Reader Press, June 2023.

Reviewer bio: Eleanor J. Bader is a Brooklyn, NY-based journalist who writes about books and domestic social issues for Truthout, Rain Taxi, The Progressive, Ms. Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Indypendent.

Book Review :: Easy Beauty by Chloé Cooper Jones

Easy Beauty by Chloé Cooper Jones book cover image

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

In Easy Beauty: A Memoir, Chloé Cooper Jones shares that she was born with sacral agenesis, a congenital condition that affects her stature and the way she walks. While her memoir focuses on the physical pain she suffers, she is more interested in examining how others see her and how she sees herself. She travels to a variety of locations, often under the guise of doing research—as when she travels to Cambodia to explore why people visit monuments to horrific events—but really to think through her self-image, largely shaped by how others see her as different and lesser-than. Her son’s view of her complicates this search, as she doesn’t want to communicate her emotional discomfort at moving through the world to him (doctors had told her she was unable to get pregnant, so her having a child at all was not a development she expected). Throughout the work, she explores beauty and the myths that have accrued around it, whether that’s through classical art or watching Roger Federer play tennis. While her writing and travels help her develop an idea of beauty that includes her and her view of the world, ultimately her relationships help her find the beauty she already possesses.

Easy Beauty by Chloé Cooper Jones. Avid Reader Press, April 2022.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.