The Forever Marriage by Ann Bauer has an interesting premise. Carmen, a woman in her early 40s, has just lost her husband Jobe to cancer. She never really loved Jobe, and while he was dying, she expected to feel relieved upon his death. However, after he dies, she learns that she herself has cancer, and realizes that caring for her three children – one with Down Syndrome – is more difficult to do alone than she expected. Her ardor for her lover, with whom she was involved during her marriage, dissipates when she learns that she is sick, and she finds herself strangely missing her dead husband.
So that’s basically the premise of the book. I enjoyed the depiction of Carmen’s conflicted feelings, as well as the origins of her marriage and how and why she stayed with Jobe. I think Bauer is a very good writer, adept at capturing the inconsistency and ebb and flow of romantic love and passion.
As I got to the end of the book, I kept asking, “Why do I care about this woman?” Carmen was ultimately a very self-centered woman who made an early, bad decision and spent the rest of her life ruing it – or not ruing it. I wanted to shake her and say, “If you’re that unhappy, then leave!” People get divorced all the time – why did she feel so trapped, for so long? And I was unconvinced of the posthumous passion she felt for Jobe – she could easily feel passionate about someone who was no longer alive, as she could recreate him as the person that he wasn’t while he was alive.
I thought Carmen’s kids got short shrift, and she basically viewed all of the people around her through the prism of what they could do for her. I don’t mind that Bauer’s main character was unsympathetic, but I think that her lack of dimension and relentless self-centeredness detracted from the novel and what Bauer was trying to accomplish.
Didn’t love this one, though it did suck me in and the writing was very good. Thank you to The Overlook Press for providing me a review copy.