Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Better Man by Leah McLaren

5 Star

Every couple has a wish list. 
Maya wants
Nick to come home earlier
To engage with their children
To engage with her
Nick wants . . .
A divorce

Having decided that their marriage is over, Nick is determined to leave quickly and with dignity. But when he looks into the financial realities of splitting up, he realizes that more of his hard-earned income than he can handle will go to Maya. 
Then a mutual friend proposes that Nick improve the marriage in order to end it amicably, because the better father and husband he is, the more self-sufficient Maya becomes and the cheaper his pay-out will be at the end. 
But as Nick sets out to be a better man, he starts to feel like one. Time with his kids, dinners with his wife, fewer hours in the office has the strange effect of making him happier. As Maya starts to feel appreciated by her husband again, she starts to blossom, to unclench her fists from the parenting reins and start to do things for herself. 
Nick and Maya feel like they are falling back in love. How odd, how funny, how serendipitous. But if Maya knew what had promoted this marital metamorphosis? Then it would be war.

Kathryn - 5 Star

I found the whole novel dark with underlying greyness. There was obviously a reason for this as they couple are not the on the same page about their marriage or their positions in it (or indeed the world).
Nick was so bland at first that I hardly could understand where their marriage had come from but as the novel progressed the author gently gave us a bit of background information for their mutual initial attractions. I began to understand what they had had before the arrival of their twins.

It’s an honest portrayal of a marriage sunk into unhappiness by simple miscommunication.  Having a child completely alters your universe and most parents will agree that there is something in this novel that will resonate in their own partnerships.  One or other partner will feel neglected, superfluous, guilty, unappreciated, ignored or just plain lonely during the early stages of child-rearing.  It’s hard to address these feelings when you’re sleep-deprived and solely focussed on making sure this tiny being is getting what it needs to survive to the next day, let alone next week and next thing you know is you’ve gone several years without really looking at your spouse or wondering how they’re doing. It happens, a lot.

The novel really explores what went awry in Nick and Maya’s marriage and though it seems dark and depressing I think there’s actually a lot of hopefulness in their story.  Underneath everything they are still kind people and neither one is out to “get” the other.  They just cannot see a way to be happy together and be able to give the other what is needed.

It’s a good book, not an easy read but easily readable.  I would recommend it to those who have come out of the fog of early parenthood so they can recognise that they weren’t alone or to those about to head into the fog, so they can avoid all of our mistakes.

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

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