I was recently discussing the trend of ‘books about alternative relationships’ with another bibliophile, and we both agreed that there is a real appetite for comic as well as literary explorations of this topic. I recently reviewed a book by Zoey Leigh Peterson that explores a couple attempting to have an open relationship; it was a very serious, feelings-driven story line that may turn off the occasional reader simply because the plot was pretty thin. Now that I’ve read Sarah Dunn‘s The Arrangement, I can refer my chick-lit loving friends to her book instead, as this is a much easier read with a similar premise.
We are introduced to a couple that’s traded in their hip lifestyle in Brooklyn to an upscale suburban existence to better raise their 5 year-old autistic son. Lucy and Owen are happy together and they have a great marriage that many would envy, but when friends of theirs admit they are experimenting with having an ‘open marriage’ (i.e. having lovers on the side), they decide to give it a go themselves. They decide on a few rules and an end date-6 months from when they begin. It doesn’t take a genius to guess that this isn’t going to end well, but it was still fun getting there. I raced through this book in a few days because I was dying to get to the end to see what what happens.
At first, I questioned why Lucy and Owen would attempt to do this if they really were happy with each other, but the appeal is obvious as the book progresses; they both get to experience that excited, ‘new relationship feel’ which we all remember so vividly. Of course these feelings never really last, but because they had been married for so long, they probably forgot about that. They also created these rules around their arrangement in attempt to minimize, or even eliminate the risk to their family life. As naive as it sounds, I did have a tiny part of me that hoped they would succeed, but the more logical part of me knew this would never work, no matter how many rules were put in place.
Aside from the juicy moral issues the characters grapple with, the book is also well written. Dunn is a writer for television so the dialogue is witty, easy to follow, and the plot moves swiftly to keep us entertained at all times. She also creates some notable secondary characters, for example an outspoken mom named Sunny Bang was my favourite; she had me wishing I knew someone similar in my own mommy circle (for instance, she calls a four-year-old a dick). Entertaining, funny, and thoughtful, all in one book. Who could ask for more? But here’s what I really want to know from you, dear reader-do you know of anyone who has tried, or is currently in an open marriage? Time to dish!
Oooh I saw this book on a booklist I read somewhere and thanks for the review on it (and for the photo of Smokey!) – I am going to put it on my reading list!
Everyone loves it so far!
I don’t! But here’s my question… if you were in an open marriage would it be a secret, or would everyone know about it? It would be a hard thing to keep it a secret around here, I think. Maybe in a big city…
Yes good point, I think anything is hard to keep a secret in a small town
Loved your review. You and Smokey convinced me to add this book to my TBR list. 🙂
Smokey can be quite persuasive 🙂
I have read several non-fiction accounts by people who have “gone public” about open relationships. Rebecca Walker’s One Big Happy Family: 18 Writers talk about Polamory, Open Adoption, MixEd Marriage…and more is one. Anything by Dan Savage will usually touch on the subject as well.
Hmm good points Ellen, maybe it’s just recent that fictional accounts are trying to Make light of it?
I don’t know anyone in an open marriage, but there have been times when I thought an open marriage might save some couples I know. Sometimes spouses aren’t sexually compatible. One person has a larger sexual appetite that the other, or one person has a disability that only allows them to touch as opposed to have sex. There are lots of exceptions. I don’t know that trying an open relationship to add spice back into the marriage works, unless both partners really do feel strongly about it. I’m not against the idea. Also, I laughed out loud when you wrote that one mom calls a four-year-old a dick. 😀
hahah I know right? I wish I knew Sunny Bang, and I wish she was a real person. And I agree with you that open marriages probably work for some people-everyone is so different, so why wouldn’t it?
The only famous open marriage I can think of was one I saw in the movie Florence Foster Jenkins, based on the real woman. He loved the titular character so fiercely, and they were married forever, but she had also contracted syphilis from her first husband, who slept around. Thus, Florence and her current husband don’t have a sexual relationship, and it’s well-known that he has a mistress. It worked for them. It’s a really, really funny movie, but beautiful, too.
Hmm I’ve never heard of that, but sounds fascinating!
I know this is an old post, but I found it when looking for poly reactions to this book. I quite enjoyed the book, mostly her deft handling of the minutia of marriage. Many of the feelings she expressed about marriage by various characters rang so true to me. I do happen to be in an open marriage. We’ve been eight years married and five years open and going strong. We are not public about it and we do live in a small town. But I think what most makes it work for us is being completely honest with each other and always putting our relationship and family first. Another great thing about this book was how she highlighted so many types of relationships, basically underscoring that no specific type is perfect. That’s how I feel about my relationship. It’s always a work in progress, and it’s distinctly ours.
Oh wow, congratulations! I appreciate you commenting on the review, even if it is old 🙂 I did like that about the book as well, it seemed a fair representation I think.