Friday, April 10, 2015

Book Review: "The Marriage Hearse" by Larry Duberstein

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Have you ever been forced to spend a period of time in the company of a person you absolutely dislike, someone whose every word, every habit grates on your nerves? That's the way I felt about Maurice Locksley, the novelist narrator of Larry Duberstein's The Marriage Hearse.

Locksley is a 40-year-old writer of some renown. He is married to Kim, a beautiful poet, with whom he has a four-year-old son, Benny. He also maintains a reasonably cordial (if not slightly odd) relationship with his ex-wife Adele, who is mother to his two other children, Will and Sadie. And as if that wasn't enough, he is also having an affair with Maggie, a young artist he met when she was teaching children at his young son's daycare.

The Marriage Hearse follows Locksley over approximately a 10-1/2-hour period one winter's night. On the way home to have dinner with Kim and Benny, he stops in at a local bar for a few drinks, and begins to ponder the path his life has followed as well as the roads not taken. Much self-introspection (and perhaps a little self-delusion) follows.

The night is ripe for a bit of a midlife crisis, for trying to decide exactly what he wants out of life and love. Does he want to continue his intellectually and emotionally challenging marriage, or does he want to throw it all away for the possibilities that a relationship with Maggie might provide, that is if she's willing to provide it? Does he want to be a pariah, a savior, a lover, or a fighter?

"I am not even what I often am, a happy fella who thinks he's not."

I found this book insufferable, mainly because Lockley's character was. He speaks in pun and in riddle, using creative spellings and turns of phrase, and I found it very difficult to care about him. (For example, when referring to his wife, he says "I and Kim" because "Kim and I" reminds him of the musical The King and I, and he doesn't want to think of himself as bald.) And while the story is interesting and his voyage of self-discovery (and slight self-loathing) is compelling, after a while I just wanted to scream at him to get over himself.

Apparently this is a reissue of a book originally published in 1987. Maybe others might find Locksley more amusing than annoying. Perhaps it's a demonstration of Duberstein's writing talent. I just couldn't enjoy this.

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