Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Book Review: A Separation

At the outset of every new year, I tend to peruse lists of books recommended for book clubs. Katie Kitamura's A Separation landed on one of those lists this year as a recently released title worth group discussion. If it hadn't been so short, I might not have stuck with it. I guess I kept hoping it would improve, but it never seemed to change course and pick up speed. It is a very cerebral novel and thus, I understand why some might consider it a good book for discussion, but for me, the discussion possibilities were fairly slim.

Basically, the plot (if you can say there is any plot) revolves around a young woman who has secretly separated from her husband. When that husband, Christopher, goes missing in Greece, his mother sends the wife (the couple had made a pact not to inform his parents of the separation) to find her husband. The young woman, whose name we never learn, intends to find him and demand a divorce. However, before she can find him, she learns more about his infidelities and what has transpired since they agreed to separate.

The novel had a very stream-of-consciousness feel to it. The reader is trapped inside the thoughts of the narrator as she ruminates on the deeper subjects of marriage, commitment, infidelity, responsibility, and relationships. The narrator talks about the ritualistic words "I do" paired with "the archaic and unreasonable phrase until death do us part." As far as the author and narrator are concerned, marriage is a temporary commitment, unrealistically expected to endure over time. Infidelities are to be expected. The eventual demise of relationships a foregone conclusion.

For me, this perspective rings shallow and untrue. I recognize the sacred covenant of marriage and aspire to uphold it. Thus, I could not stomach much of the thought processes elaborated in this novel. Moreover, I could not, in good conscience, recommend this as a book to foster realistic conversations about relationships and marriage, distance and divorce. I did not consider it "profound," "gripping," or "mesmerizing," as the accolades on the back cover profess. It was superficial, boring, and disturbing.

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