Love in Mid Air
Elyse Bearden is flying back from a pottery show in Phoenix when fate seats her next to Gerry Kincaid.
He’s an investment banker who climbs mountains on weekends. He’s married to a woman he met “in the drop-add line freshman year at UMass.” He has three kids. Oh, and he’s hubba-hubba handsome.
Elyse is also married. Nine years. One child.
How happy is her marriage?
Well, she opens her copy of Redbook to an article called “48 Things to Do to a Man in Bed”, and when Gerry suggests they each write down three things they’d like to try, she’s game.
And then she confesses: “Marriage is the only thing in my whole life I’ve ever failed at.”
Dallas. A two-hour layover. In the Traveler’s Chapel, they kiss --- “one of those kisses that gives you the feeling that you’re falling, that the elevator floor has dropped out from beneath you.” And then…. separate planes.
Chapter two: Charlotte, North Carolina. The morning routine. How grim? Elyse's husband Phil, a dentist, likes to communicate via Post-It notes. Not that he’s much duller than the husbands of her friends. Elyse and her pals have a running joke: “Some Sunday we should all go home from church with the wrong husbands.” How long will it take for the men to notice?
Better question: How long will it take for Elyse and Gerry to start meeting for wild nights in cities other than their own?
Shocked? I understand. Sorry you’re going to miss out on a highly amusing, provocative, hatchet job of a novel.
Kim Wright has spent two decades writing about food, wine and travel, and she has --- for 18 years --- written the annual Fodor's Walt Disney World with Kids, and she has even tapped out some erotica, but the most important preparation she did for LOVE IN MID AIR (there is also a Kindle edition) was to get divorced.
And she learned: Once you’re wearing the Scarlet D in a small town, people talk. About their marriages. Their sex lives. Their lost dreams. If you take notes --- and Kim Wright did --- you get a remarkable survey of the state of marriage in your zip code. And, if you’re Kim Wright, you come to a few conclusions. Here’s one:
There were very few books that dealt with the subject of divorce in a realistic manner. Most of the books were about men leaving women, even though it’s more statistically likely for a woman to initiate divorce, especially after the age of 40. And there was often some sort of quick fix --- the deserted woman ended up falling in love with her attorney or some hunky handyman who showed up to help at her new house. I resented this whole idea that divorce is about swapping one man for another --- ideally as fast as possible --- with little exploration of the affect a woman’s divorce has on her friends and the whole social web.
Here’s another, which isn’t stated directly, but which informs most of this novel:
Most men are assholes. Which doesn’t mean they’re cruel, sexist jerks who use their economic power to turn their suburban castles into detention centers with their spouses as inmates --- Ibsen’s “Doll’s House”, updated. It’s mostly that they’re anxious to settle. They take a woman’s silence for happiness. Their idea of bliss is boredom. And --- but if you’re a woman with kids and a suburban life and church and a book group and, once a week, white wine-filled lunches with friends, you don’t need me to go on. (And if you’re a man reading this, congratulations --- you know you’re no oppressor.)
Is LOVE IN MID AIR a latter day feminist screed? Not at all. It’s fun. It’s stupid --- I mean, on the male side, like having your husband agree to marriage therapy as long as it’s with the minister of your church, who happens to be one of hubby’s best friends. And it’s hot sex --- did I mention that Wright has written erotica? --- with a man who will never leave his wife.
This home run of a first novel succeeds because it plays fair. Here’s a world, here are the people, here is the misery they call life. And then here are the Unintended Consequences, which are the real point of the novel. And here is a very wise writer, seeing Elyse’s reach for happiness with deadly clarity.
“The price for enjoying anything is using it up,” she has Elyse say. “Every pleasure eventually slips through our hands, and perhaps that is the greatest pleasure of all, the feeling of something slipping through your hands.”
Now aren’t you glad you didn’t run away before Elyse and Gerry started to commit --- yes, I guess it is --- adultery?
© Copyright 2010, Head Butler, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reviewed by Jesse Kornbluth on July 14, 2011
Love in Mid Air
- Publication Date: March 29, 2010
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
- ISBN-10: 0446540447
- ISBN-13: 9780446540445