Marriage Vows begins and ends on Jordan Maddox’s 55th birthday with the usual birthday assessment ( don’t we all do that?) and throughout the day she reflects on her marriage and her life to date and the secret that has tormented her for years. It’s a funny thing to say about a book, but after a few pages, I felt as if I could have written Marriage Vows. Not that I’m a writer but more because the protagonist said so many things I could have said and thought so many things I could have thought; from musings on adult children to imagining the stories of people at the airport. Maybe we are just both typical of women in their mid-fifties. I think it’s skilled to be able to portray this and I really like reading a book that, though rooted in the ordinary, touches our extraordinary-ness.
It’s written in a conversational style which makes it easy to read and is also very witty. I love it when there are lines in a book that make me laugh aloud. Yet it also has a very serious side in that it explores many of the experiences, losses and difficulties that concern most of us. Things like losing family members to cancer, fraught relationships with parents, temptations that plague us whether resisted or not; the way we can go through life super-sensitive to the obscure yet oblivious to the obvious.
If I have a criticism it is that some of the coincidences were a bit too convenient but this does not detract much from the overall experience of the book. It is a delight to read a book set in South Africa that recognises our context but doesn’t dwell on it and I love the familiarity of the analogies such as being cheered on as if she were swimming the Midmar Mile ( this when she was depressed and struggling to get out of bed).
I am looking forward to sharing this book with my book club friends, (I’m sure they’ll love it) and looking forward to reading Gail Schimmel’s next novel.