The most intriguing stories of marriage don’t always happen under the covers, but rather, between them. In many ways, the arc of a marriage parallels that of a compelling novel — it begins with a meeting, climaxes with a coupling and ends with, well, an end — whether because of death or a fight over who was supposed to clean the microwave. Here are eight novels from the past few years that delve into what makes marriages good, bad and complicated.
Not all love stories have happy endings, but it’s all about perspective with Connie and Doug, the center of Nicholls’ exploration of a marriage’s end. The question it begs: If happy ends, does it invalidate any happiness that was?
It’s the lucky person that doesn’t face some sort of existential crisis during his or her lifetime. Joyce’s sweet, desperate tale of a man looking to redeem himself will leave readers pondering the coulda, shoulda, woulda moments of their lives.
The Last Hundred Years Trilogy: Some Luck, Early Warning and Golden Age
Smiley’s exploration of the Langdons, an Iowa farming family, develops across three novels — each focused on the intricacies of marital harmony and discord across several generations. It is the rich, complicated nature of each character that makes the marriages so very interesting.
Rowell may be better known for her young-adult fiction, but she’s also adept at making decidedly more mature themes accessible to her older fan base. In this case, it’s a fantastical treatment of one woman’s “What If” and what happens when that wish is cosmically granted.
Taylor Jenkins Reid
How much time is necessary to build a marriage? A decade? A day? Does the length of time between “Hello” and “Goodbye” make one relationship more real than another? Here is a story of young love stopped short and a woman’s fight to make sure it means something in the end.
On a number of “it” lists a few years back, the story of two brothers and their wives and the lengths to which some people will go to protect the lives within their bubble was both mesmerizing and disturbing.
Readers, be warned, most either love or hate Franzen. But if you are looking for a novel that breaks marriage down to its core and rebuilds the characters from the ground up, the story of Walter and Patty Berglund doesn’t fail to entertain and engage — and may leave you questioning your relationship.
What do you make of your marriage when everything you thought was, wasn’t? The newest read on the list, set on a cruise with a helping of family dysfunction on the side, Evison explores what happens when a marriage is altered after one partner has already passed on.
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