With Valentine’s Day in the rear view mirror, it’s intriguing that two new releases deal with marriage and divorce in humorous novels- Matthew Norman’s Last Couple Standing and Gigi Levangie’s Been There, Married That.
Matthew Norman’s previous novels, Domestic Violets and We’re All Damaged deal with men who are having difficult times in work and marriage. In his latest novel, Last Couple Standing, we get both the husband and wife’s stories.
Mitch and Jessica met at college, and became one of the Core Four- four men and four women who were friends, and then all paired up and married. The group did everything together- got married, had children, lived in the same city. For nearly twenty years they were inseparable.
And then one of the couples got a divorce. It wasn’t a complete surprise, if they were all to be honest, they knew that Terry and Megan loved each other the least. Terry was cheating on his wife, so divorce was inevitable.
After the first, came the second, which was more shocking because Sarah and Doug seemed the most in love- until Sarah reconnected with an old boyfriend on Instagram, and Doug became involved with his “work wife.”
Four months later, Amber and Alan got divorced after realizing they were never in love. All this shook Jessica and Mitch to the core. They became afraid that they would catch divorce from their friends, and wanted to find a way to avoid that disease.
Since most of the breakups seemed to be related to infidelity, Jessica and Mitch came up with a plan. They would each have sex with someone else, and get it out of their system to save their marriage. They came up with a set of strict rules, so what could possibly go wrong? Well, a lot it seems.
Norman writes characters that are so relatable, you feel like they are people you know. His dialogue seems like he has eavesdropped on people at the table next to him in a restaurant. He had me laughing out loud at some of his lines, and then in the next paragraph you feel sorry for the characters. Last Couple Standing is a cautionary tale for married adults, where you find that the grass isn’t always greener. I recommend it.
Gigi Levangie’s hilarious novel, Been There, Married That begins with Aggie, the wife of Hollywood uber-producer Trevor, at her 48th birthday party. Of course Trevor has gone all-out for the party, with the most expensive champagne at the hottest restaurant in town. He is excited to give Aggie her gift, which he makes a big production out of presenting to her in front of everyone- a Fitbit.
And so begins their story. Aggie is a Hollywood wife who has written a novel she hopes will be made into a movie. Trevor is a classic Hollywood husband, who one day decides that he is putting his marriage in “turnaround”- which in Hollywood-speak means he wants a divorce.
Aggie is even more shocked than when he gave her the Fitbit. It appears that their assistant, who now wears her hair like Aggie’s and wears the same clothes as Aggie (wait, are those Aggie’s actual clothes?) is now sleeping in Trevor’s bed. But they just cuddle.
Aggie’s lawyer tells her not to move out of the house, so she is given a schedule of when she can use certain rooms in the house. Trevor does not want to bump into her when he is getting his breakfast.
Eventually Trevor gets nastier (if that is even possible). He sues for custody of their tweenage daughter, whom he never spends time with. Aggie gets even when her sister Fin shows up after a stint in prison.
Fin is "the Solange to Aggie’s Beyonce"; she will not let Trevor get away with mistreating her sister. Trevor needs everything in its place, like the notepads next to the phone, which must be placed at a specific angle. Fin and Aggie move all of his furniture, and every item he owns in the house, two inches. It drove him nuts.
Been There, Married That is a hilarious novel, perfect for fans of any of the Real Housewives TV series (although I am not a fan of those and I enjoyed this book a great deal). Gigi Levangie knows how to write zinging dialogue, and having been previously married to producer Brian Glazer, she knows this Hollywood scene intimately. If you need a good laugh, pick this book up.
Last Couple Standing by Matthew Norman- A-
Published by Ballantine
Hardcover, $27, 288 pages
Been There, Married That by Gigi Levangie- A
Published by St. Martin’s Press
Hardcover, $27.99, 336 pages