Review

Married: A Fine Predicament

by Anne Roiphe

Anne
Roiphe's ode to wedded life is sweet, sad and terribly honest. In
MARRIED: A Fine Predicament, she shares her own story and finds
examples in literature, history, and religion to show that despite
sometimes disastrous couplings and emotional minefields, the
institution of marriage is a worthy endeavor. From children to
extramarital affairs, from sex to finances (not to mention
in-laws), Roiphe delves into all aspects of marriage and takes the
reader on a journey from "I do" to "ever after."

The book is framed by one of Roiphe's daughter's transition from
single life to engagement. As a feminist, Roiphe raised her
daughter to be independent but as a mother she still longs to see
her walk down the aisle. Her own failed first marriage as well as
her keen cultural and social observations lead her to question why
she so strongly wants her children to be married. And why, she
wonders, in this age of personal freedom and skyrocketing divorce
rate, do people want to get married at all? In exploring these
questions Roiphe turns to the Bible and the Talmud, classic
literature and pop culture. In her references to everything from
MADAME BOVARY to "Sex in the City" there is something that will
resonate with every reader.

Most interestingly, Roiphe shares the emotional details of both of
her marriages (one successful and long lasting) and those of her
parents' marriage. It is at these times that the reader finds the
most touching and intimate portraits of marriage as well as the
most negative aspects. And, it is with these examples that it
becomes obvious that MARRIED is not solely about marriage but is
also a celebration of Family. For Roiphe understands that marriage
can be the linchpin of family (although she acknowledges that many
happy, healthy families do not involve marriages). In recounting
the joys, both simple and grand, of her marriage, she is
celebrating the family she has created with her husband.

However, she is quick to insist that romantic ideals, about both
marriage and children, can be damaging when they face the mundane,
everyday existence that makes up the overwhelming majority of
married life. Your spouse, she writes, must be, above all else, a
partner. Roiphe is ever realistic, and her observations are wise
and brutally honest: the search for perfect romantic love, or
unending passion, she believes, are empty pursuits that can only
hurt all involved. The partnership that is marriage is instead
built on ongoing hard work with perhaps only a 50% chance of
success and often resulting in shattered expectations, broken
hearts, divorce, or worse.

So, why does Roiphe find that marriage is, despite it all, a
worthwhile and noble commitment? Her answer is simple: the pursuit
and possible attainment of a simple yet incredibly fulfilling
happiness. Putting religious and cultural pressures aside (which
she demonstrates is not entirely possible), marriage, or successful
marriage at any rate, promises unique happiness.

The message in MARRIED may not be immediately obvious. Readers
looking for an inspirational book on the subject should keep
looking. Not social science nor psychology, MARRIED offers an
interesting and thoughtful take on the institution and will please
readers ready to engage in a conversational examination of marriage
and all its contradictions, its sorrows, and its joys. Roiphe's
latest reaffirms the idea that marriage is a good thing but never
insults her audience but suggesting it is easy or should be
required for all. Because of her open-mindedness and personal
writing style this book will appeal to readers with a variety of
perspectives.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 22, 2011

Married: A Fine Predicament
by Anne Roiphe

  • Publication Date: November 30, -0001
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • ISBN-10: 0465070663
  • ISBN-13: 9780465070664