Thursday, November 13, 2014

Book Review: "The Daylight Marriage" by Heidi Pitlor

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

When they met, Hannah and Lovell couldn't have been more different. Hannah was the impulsive free spirit, a young woman raised in the midst of privilege yet taught by her mother that women should never be subservient to men—and she had a broken engagement to prove her mother's lessons had sunk in. Lovell was the practical, stable, shy climate scientist, whose romantic track record was far less impressive. But when Hannah delivered flowers to Lovell one day after he graduated, he was smitten, and knew he had to be with this woman, despite the fact he didn't feel like her equal.

Years later the two have built a life together, raising two children—rebellious yet sensitive Janine, and Ethan, shyer yet sturdier. Lovell has a successful career that keeps him busy and challenged, but Hannah feels herself drifting, wishing for more. Through the years, the resentments, the anger, the frustrations, and the hurts have multiplied and simmered just under the surface.

One night, after a seemingly innocuous exchange, it all comes to a head, and the couple have a bitter argument, one that just stops short of turning violent. Both are unsure what their next steps are, but Lovell hopes they can get back on even footing. Then the next day, Hannah disappears after dropping Ethan off at school and calling in sick to work. As evidence dribbles in, Lovell and the children hold out hope that she will return, but they also must negotiate a new stage in their relationships, especially when Janine fears her father may have harmed her mother.

The Daylight Marriage is a bleak yet well-written book about how the things we don't say hurt as much, if not more, than the things we do. It's a book about how we sometimes confuse stability for happiness, and uncertainty for unhappiness. It's also a book about how one impulsive decision can change your life—in both good and bad ways.

Heidi Pitlor does a really good job at switching perspectives between Lovell and Hannah, past and present, tracing their relationship from the start to where they wound up. The story also shifts between Lovell's attempts to pull his and the children's lives together, and Hannah's steps after she left home that morning. It's a well done yet painful story, and Pitlor's storytelling ability keeps you fully engaged and immersed in the characters' lives, even if you don't necessarily like them very much, or know who you're really rooting for.

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