The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Thank you to Michelle Richmond, NetGalley, and the publisher for providing me with an advanced reader copy of The Marriage Pact. Here is my honest and unbiased review.
I started this book because I thought the premise was intriguing: what if married couples were legally bound to a set of rules and guidelines, and, if they failed to meet them, were held accountable by a community of people and court of law committed to overseeing the success of their marriage? Of course that premise probably sounds appealing to young newlyweds who don’t want anything and anyone to come in between their vows and each other. And that is precisely what happens with the two characters in this story, Jerry and Alice.
Jerry is a psychologist and professional counselor, while his wife, Alice, is a well known musician turned work-driven lawyer for a prominent law firm. Jerry is the narrator of the story, which at first honestly felt a bit jarring because I read so many psychological thrillers about women or from the perspective of a woman. There are some really bizarre twists and turns in this plot that will likely keep you reading. It’s like watching a trainwreck unfold right in front of your eyes, or better yet, a UFO landing in your backyard because some of the plot and the characters’ actions make you wonder if you are living in an alternative dimension where the characters’ logic and reason are temporarily suspended.
I gave the book 3.5 stars because the narrator didn’t quite feel like a “real” living and breathing person. I won’t spoil the plot, but I’ll say that if my spouse was threatened with harm I would not sit idly and let it happen out of fear of a “marriage pact.” Jerry finally does step up to the plate when things really get out of hand with the people enforcing the “marriage pact” and all of its ridiculous rules, but it took him too long to do so. Jerry also creaped me out at times; in some parts of the book, it seemed to me that he might be getting a thrill out of the sadomasochistic behavior carried out by members of the marriage pact. Alice also seemed to have a darker side that made me question her motivations for allowing herself to be physically and emotionally humiliated by members of the pact. It really shocked and disappointed me that Alice would tolerate this draconian treatment as someone who was portrayed as a strong, educated woman and talented singer. The only reason given for her submission to these rules was because she was afraid of having a successful marriage as a women who was successful in all other endeavors.
As someone who teaches the social sciences, I was familiar with several of the psychological studies referenced in this book. I appreciated the author’s attempt to bring this literature into the book, and her attempt to try to think about what keeps people endeared to one another. However, the book fell short because the characters seemed so incredibly unpredictable, and not in a good, mysterious way. Their actions did not align with the way in which they were depicted. I did like the plot, scenery, and ideas behind the book, though, and that made up for what lacked in the character development department.