Monday, September 8, 2014

#FRC2014 - Week 1 - Mating for Life by Melissa Stapley


Course: Guide to Women’s Studies

Required reading: Mating for Life by Marissa Stapley

Department: Women’s Fiction

Course Date: Week of September 8

With honesty and heart-warming humor this course will transport you into four women’s lives. While you watch them navigate their chaotic and unconventional lifestyles, they realize the many modern roles woman play and that some love can really last a lifetime.


This captivating debut explores marriage, motherhood, identity, and what it takes to love someone—family members, friends, or spouses—for life.

Former folk singer Helen Sear was a feminist wild child who proudly disdained monogamy, raising three daughters—each by a different father—largely on her own. Now in her sixties, Helen has fallen in love with a traditional man who desperately wants to marry her. And while she fears losing him, she’s equally afraid of abandoning everything she’s ever stood for if she goes through with it.

Meanwhile, Helen’s youngest daughter, Liane, is in the heady early days of a relationship with her soul mate. But he has an ex-wife and two kids, and her new role as a “step-something” doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Ilsa, an artist, has put her bohemian past behind her and is fervently hoping her second marriage will stick. Yet her world feels like it is slowly shrinking, and her painting is suffering as a result—and she realizes she may need to break free again, even if it means disrupting the lives of her two young children. And then there’s Fiona, the eldest sister, who has worked tirelessly to make her world pristine, yet who still doesn’t feel at peace. When she discovers her husband has been harboring a huge secret, Fiona loses her tenuous grip on happiness and is forced to face some truths about herself that she’d rather keep buried.

Interweaving the alternating perspectives of Helen, her daughters, and the women surrounding them, “each new chapter brings a wise and tender look at single life, dating rituals, and marital unease” (New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Close). In this “absolute feat of storytelling” (bestselling author Grace O'Connell), Marissa Stapley celebrates the many roles modern women play, and shows that even though happy endings aren’t one-size-fits-all, some loves really can last for life.



Do women want/need to be married to a 'good provider' in order to feel happy, fulfilled and secure?  Depends on the woman.  

Helen would say "no" - after all, she had three daughters, raised mostly on her own, with three different men; she's built her life around the philosophy that women don't need men.  But lately she has discovered the downside of eating many meals alone.  Fiona, the oldest girl, is married to said good provider.   Right before her annual 'weekend with the girls' in her family, she finds out her husband had a daughter some 20 years ago and had no part in raising her.  Fiona is not sure she can forgive her husband and asks him to move out.  Ilsa, the middle sister, is also married to a good provider, who happens to be Fiona's husbands best friend, but finds herself bored to tears - apparently she is more used to a snappier social life.  Then there is Liane, the youngest, who is pseudo-engaged at the beginning of the book, finds her soulmate next door from the weekend cottage ... who is there with his wife and two daughters.

Ah..."the course of true love never did run smooth." (A Midsummer Night's Dream Ii, by William Shakespeare.)

A fair amount of the initial chapters follows the inner thoughts of the main female characters.  There's not a lot of 'action', and some readers may have a little trouble if they are used to go, go, go....  But with the types of situations the mother and daughters are experiencing, it lends itself to reflection and introspection.

And let's face it.  Marriage is not a fast-food wrapper.  You can't just ball it up and toss it in the trash when it has lost its usefulness.  And what about children of the union?  Will they be angry?  Will they feel sad or responsible?

When I divorced my first husband, the thought ran through my head, "If they made you jump through half as many hoops to get married in the first place as they do to dissolve your union, the divorce rate would go down!"

If you like books with a lot of internal dialogue, you will like Mating for Life.  If you like family dramas, you will like Mating for Life.  If you like women's fiction, should just open up another tab and head straight to your favorite online bookstore to buy Mating for Life.



Marissa Stapley is a National Magazine Award nominated writer and former magazine editor whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, National Post, Elle Canada, and many others. Mating for Life (Atria Books; Simon & Schuster Canada) is her first novel. When Marissa is not writing, she’s reading. (In fact, she never goes anywhere without a book. Except maybe swimming.) Some of her favourite authors are Meg Wolitzer, Julia Glass, Alice Munro, John Irving, Lauren Groff, Margaret Atwood and James Salter. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two children, where she teaches writing, and is working on another novel.


(Disclosure:  I received a print copy of Mating for Life from the author and publisher via BookSparks in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)

1 comment:

  1. I'm usually not a huge fan of fiction but this looks really good. I do love a good family drama story. It always makes me feel better about my people :). Great review as always, LuAnn!