There are so many reasons for Joan Castleman to want to leave her husband, which is exactly what she decides to do in the first paragraph of this book, while on a plane headed to Finland, where her husband is to receive the Helsinki prize for fiction. Joe Castleman is self-absorbed, a womanizer and a lazy, uninvolved father to their three adult children, but he is also a talented and successful writer. It was this talent that drew Joan to him 45 years earlier, ending Joe’s short career as a College professor and which has supported their family throughout the years. Thus begins Joan’s first person account of their four and a half decade marriage, a story which is liberally peppered with insightful analysis on the institution of marriage, as well as the particular tribulations of being partnered to a writer.
While both Joan and Joe come to vivid life thanks to Meg’s fantastic prose, Joan completely embodies the silently suffering and “put upon” wife role, and rarely falters in her duties, to a degree that seems unrealistic. While there is very little that is redeeming about Joe beyond his oft referenced talent, and enduring affection for his wife. A surprising reveal at the end of the book only hammers in these roles further, and the conclusion is unsatisfying, but it was still an enjoyable and fast read, with many profound and beautifully written ruminations on the marital experience.