August 8, 2014

The Ties That Bind Us Together

Mating for Life by Marissa Stapley

Release Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster | Atria Books
Pages: 336 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
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Summary (from Goodreads)
Former folk singer Helen Sear was a feminist wild child who proudly disdained monogamy, raising three daughters—each by a different father—largely on her own. Now in her sixties, Helen has fallen in love with a traditional man who desperately wants to marry her. And while she fears losing him, she’s equally afraid of abandoning everything she’s ever stood for if she goes through with it.

Meanwhile, Helen’s youngest daughter, Liane, is in the heady early days of a relationship with her soul mate. But he has an ex-wife and two kids, and her new role as a “step-something” doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Ilsa, an artist, has put her bohemian past behind her and is fervently hoping her second marriage will stick. Yet her world feels like it is slowly shrinking, and her painting is suffering as a result—and she realizes she may need to break free again, even if it means disrupting the lives of her two young children. And then there’s Fiona, the eldest sister, who has worked tirelessly to make her world pristine, yet who still doesn’t feel at peace. When she discovers her husband has been harboring a huge secret, Fiona loses her tenuous grip on happiness and is forced to face some truths about herself that she’d rather keep buried.

Interweaving the alternating perspectives of Helen, her daughters, and the women surrounding them, “each new chapter brings a wise and tender look at single life, dating rituals, and marital unease” (New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Close). In this “absolute feat of storytelling” (bestselling author Grace O'Connell), Marissa Stapley celebrates the many roles modern women play, and shows that even though happy endings aren’t one-size-fits-all, some loves really can last for life.

Thoughts on Mating for Life
When I first read the summary for Mating for Life, I really wasn't sure if the book was going to be right for me. I am typically drawn to books involving sisters and/or family relationships, but something about this one gave me pause. However, the number of positive reviews on Goodreads convinced me to take a chance on it.

At the book's center is the mother, Helen, who is a former folk singer, wild child and fiercely independent. She raised three daughters - each from a different father - and finds herself craving companionship now that she's in her sixties. Helen's three daughters each have relationship problems of their own.

The oldest, Fiona, has always been the one in control. She craves structure and order, and she's crafted a family life that many outsiders would envy... until she discovers her husband's been harboring a big secret. The middle daughter, Ilsa, followed in her mother's footsteps. She loves freedom and has always done as she pleases. Now a wife and a mother, she's watching her life change and her art slip away. The youngest, Liane, has finally found love, but it's also not without its complications.

Each chapter opens with an excerpt that describes the mating rituals of an animal or bird that ties into the chapter. I thought this was unique and clever - though I did catch myself skimming over them a few times. As I began reading, I was surprised to find that each chapter was told from a different perspective. The mother and three daughters each take turns in the spotlight, but there are also additional secondary characters who have chapters focusing on them.

Honestly, this ended up being my biggest frustration with the book. I had a difficult time keeping the characters straight in the beginning - as well as remembering their relationship with one another and place within the family. Add to that so many perspectives, and I became overwhelmed and disconnected. I felt like I never really got to know the characters. The minute I started to become intrigued by one character and storyline, it jumped to a completely different one. The multiple perspectives was an ambitious choice that didn't ultimately pay off for me.

I felt like there was a lack of focus overall, in the plot as well as character development. I've already noted the numerous characters, but there are also so many storylines going on. Every single woman had their own personal crisis, as well as an additional issue with someone in the family. Of all the conflict within the book, I most enjoyed the moments where the story highlighted the mother-daughter and/or sibling dynamics. One thing I found very odd - almost all of the women in this book seemed to have a sort of "we don't need men" attitude and yet almost all of their conversations or drama centered around men.

That's not to say this was a bad read. I really loved the setting, and I thought that the way the stories all intertwined was interesting and thoughtfully done. Mating for Life was a quick read, contained a few themes that I really liked and introduced me to a new debut author. It was a book that I liked overall, despite the issues I had with it. I suspect that part of my problem was I never connected to any of the characters, and I'd likely have enjoyed it much more if there'd be at least one that really resonated with me. Because of that, I'd encourage readers who are intrigued by the summary to either give it a shot or read a few more reviews for an additional opinion.

So Quotable
"I was trying to prove that things that have been torn and ruined, things that have failed, can be put back together in other ways. Maybe even in beautiful ways, or at the very least in truer ways."
*I received of copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

3 comments:

  1. Honestly, I would have picked up Mating for Life simply based on the fact that it has sisters in it! It does sound pretty intriguing story-wise, but I'm a little wary of how complicated it is too, with all the multiple character POVs involved. I'm glad you wound up having some elements that appealed to you, even though it wasn't quite what you expected either.

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  2. Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. I'm nervous but going to do it. We'll see if I'm "okay" with it too. Speaking of (not really), did you hear Hilary's second single? I like it much better than the first!

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  3. It sounds interesting. It isn't often we see a story about an unmarried, successful woman from established publishers.

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