Review: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

In Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson takes a deceptively commonplace topic, a record of life of narrator, Ruth Foster, living in the small town of Fingerlake, and transforms it with awe-inspiring storytelling and prose into a compelling modern masterpiece. Interpreting and linking the Foster family’s experiences and relationships, Robinson interweaves timelines, observations, points-of-view, and masterfully fuses a tour-de-force tale of universal significance. Every word, every well-planned and meaningful sentence, is part of a journey in which the author skillfully guides the reader into of depths of human consciousness, tackling concepts such as Perspective, Memory, Loneliness,Existence, and Spirituality, as they relate to the lives of her characters and humanity as a whole. Guided by her singular aesthetic, the reader eagerly joins in Robinson’s memorable and sweeping journey, marveling its genius all the way.

From the start, the reader is touched and moved by the depth and grit of Robinson’s writing, which allows for constant critical analysis of a mind-blowing array of topics, while always staying true and remaining relevant to her story, characters, and place. With powerful descriptive writing, Robinson provides an account of a family that is at once startlingly pretty and shockingly solitary and sad. She carefully entwines several notions about the about life and the human condition, which combine to articulate, explain, and make relevant for the reader mere seedlings of thoughts an ordinary person considers. The reader invests in the story; she is absorbed by the plethora of beauty, meaning, and messages it contains.

Robinson connects characters, stories, human experiences and thought, all of which show the reader the limitless potential of the mind to perceive, interpret, feel, and alter. She translates intersecting themes including: Love, Loneliness, Loss, Nature, Light, Dark, Memory, Perspective, Dreams, Family, Self, giving the reader a chance to think about the themes, reading, thinking, living, in different ways. Her molding of concepts and impact is so complete, it is difficult for the reader to choose which words, lines, or chapters in the text to interpret or favor-everything is stunning and new. The reader ends this text able to state-without a doubt- it leaves a discernible mark.

Housekeeping is a favorite in the collection of any fan of literary fiction. Like an old friend, a reader returns again and again, learning from the author and her writing anew each time. The writing and the story are packed full of, concepts, perspectives, ripe for the taking, ready to be plucked by each reader, new or old. Grab hold of the text, the characters, the author, and never let go!


Review: Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut


Breakfast of Champions is Kurt Vonnegut’s brilliantly imagined and crafted dystopic tale set on a futuristic alternate Earth devastated by humans. The author interweaves fact and fiction in his storylines, intentionally describing real-life impactful events in human history to encourage the reader to consider the marks humans leave on others and their surroundings. The format of Vonnegut’s metafictive novel, which communicates a variety of concepts through prose, drawings, and phrases, adds to its eccentricity and presence, and strategically builds on his ideas and messages as the story progresses. Vonnegut entertains his reader and inspires his or her analysis of the text and its themes with the flow and ease of a skilled storyteller and teacher, all the while, keeping the story fast-paced and fun.

The novel’s themes, settings, historical contexts, and character traits and actions warn the reader about the future, simultaneously eliciting powerful intellectual and emotional responses. From the first line of the text, when the reader learns Earth is “a planet dying fast, ” the reader is encouraged to consider what this means- both in the story and in reality. The plights and experiences of main characters, Kilgore Trout, a science fiction writer, and Dwayne Hoover, a Pontiac dealer, at first seem distant. But, slowly and methodically, as the storyline merges fact and fiction, they become more relatable. As Vonnegut’s storyline overlaps with events in the life of the reader, his or her desire to dissect and understand the story; feel empathy for Trout and Hoover, and learn from their experiences drastically expands. The reader’s awareness is heightened as he or she notes significant parallels such as, world wars, pollution, mining, slavery, racism, poverty, finding meaning with each new comparison.

By stepping back and turning the present into a dystopic and foreign future, Vonnegut makes his warnings and comments more accessible. The reader sees that people are often too desensitized by negative behaviors and events to remember to think about the consequences. The author’s perspective and his dynamic voice bring the story together, making its delivery and finally its messages relevant.

Packed full of stimulating content from start to finish, the text leaves the reader satisfied and longing for more long after turning the last page. The combination of Vonnegut’s special style and forceful, yet fun sci-fiction, combine to make this novel another of his classics. You won’t soon regret or forget reading Breakfast of Champions.

Review: Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

In Where’d You Go Bernadette, Maria Semple creates a visionary story using heart and introspection, which shine through in her equally complex and compelling characters, shaping a text, which satisfies a variety of readers. The author wits and charms readers, investigating the importance of perspective in discussing difficult issues faced by her protagonist, a wife, mother, and talented architect, who struggles to balance her priorities and live up to the expectations of those around her. Semple molds Bernadette Fox’s struggles, which might otherwise be disregarded or labeled as topics for Chick Lit into a relatable and impactful narrative. The author uses Bernadette’s personality, experiences, and the reactions of those around her in ways that bring out her character’s humanity and similarities to readers. She makes us think deeply about how others influence our ideas and our world; and, she makes us reflect on how we can alter their lives in return. Where’d You Go Bernadette blends a successful combination of entertainment while she also keeps minds of readers thinking and growing throughout the text.

From the start Semple helps readers identify with and commit to Bernadette’s plight, which allows them to see the story from her perspective. Readers love Bernadette and find humor in her opinions; because, despite the exaggerated nature of her personality, she is always deeply honest. Her ability to be herself in the faces of her adversaries is impressive and fascinating. She rants about hating everything from the rain in Seattle, homeless people, Canadians, to the other mom’s at daughter Bee’s school. Yet, readers recognize in Bernadette that negative voice we all harbor deep inside. In her beautiful flaws, we’re humbled by our own humanity. Semple skillfully sets up her tale, so that when Bernadette’s words and actions are questioned by those around her, readers take Bernadette’s side. The more family, neighbors, former friends and co-workers point out problems with Bernadette’s behaviors or actions, readers find value in her originality, eccentricities, and pessimism. Thus, readers start to consider what it means to feel really overwhelmed and stressed out. They ponder h and why Bernadette is misunderstood.

Within the context of Bernadette’s story, as told by several different character’s, readers come to see how seriously a person’s life can be impacted by others. Semple introduces the perspectives of daughter Bee, husband Elgin, neighbor Audrey, as she interweaves their encounters with Bernadette along with their theories, judgments about her condition. Readers are asked to consider and interpret all of the accounts and determine the truth. Semple allows us to participate in the story, gather information and choose a side, which readers immediately determine is no easy task. A line is drawn, and the people around Bernadette no longer view her actions as simply inappropriate, they move a step beyond this and decide she is mentally ill. As readers with access to Bernadette’s thoughts, we naturally question this. Instead, we think, she is lonely, unfulfilled, scared. We watch those around Bernadette try to translate her situation to suit their own needs. As readers we realize we don’t view Bernadette as crazy or deranged until we’re influenced, pushed into that mindset by the other characters. Eventually, we realize that as outsiders we know better. We come to learn as observers that no one character gives a completely accurate portrayal. Semple allows us to look at the story from all angles with caution, because we can never be truly unbiased.

The author successfully brings out beauty and magnetism in Bernadette that makes a truly unique and special character accessible and able to connect with by all readers at the same time. Through Semple’s thoughtful and touching blend of authentic characterization and analyses of complex human concerns throughout the text, leads readers to acquire their own insights on a variety of issues. An enjoyable and thought provoking read, Where’d You Go Bernadette, lives up to, and excels beyond expectations. Everything from the diverse contemporary setting to a wonderfully unpredictable protagonist will keep this novel relevant for some time to come.

Review: Therese Raquin by Emile Zola


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Zola, writes Therese Raquin using the French naturalism genre he is famous for, in which he realistically molds the dark side of innate and universal human qualities, showing the reader how these traits and the choices we make because of them can alter our lives in unexpected and disturbing ways. The careful development of plot and character traits, in which Therese and her lover, Laurent, do anything to be rid of her husband, depict the characters as victims of human nature and desires so that the reader identifies with these concepts and hopes for the impossible along with the characters. It is through the poor decisions and the inevitable destruction of his characters that Zola provides his lesson to humanity that striving for what we can’t have while ignoring the costs destroys us.

In carefully crafting personalities, environments and situations which both make the reader empathize with his characters and disapprove of their actions, Zola unveils an important and often intangible divide which exists between human thought and action The reader identifies with the characters and their desires to have what they want instead of what their lives offer. The reader feels the human aversion to unfair situations, which makes him or her view Therese and Laurent’s emotions and desires to change their situation more favorably. But, when Therese and her lover do the unthinkable, and murder her husband so they can be together and have everything they want, Zola records of a shift in the paradigm of their world and the tolerance of the reader. After Therese and Laurent break codes of morality to get what they want, they change in the eyes of the reader from protagonists to antagonists. Zola helps the reader observe that it is natural to wish and want, but wrong to compromise morality to obtain desires.

Through his naturalistic depiction of his characters, Zola asks the reader to consider the impact of allowing vices or weaknesses to govern thoughts and decisions. In Therese’s changing personality, he shows how her vices lead to more discontent when she gives in to them. Through the unsettling and bleak decline in Therese’s quality of life the reader sees and feels an unhappy person become inconsolable as she allows her weaknesses to control her life. With her husband,Therese is described as isolated and discontent. Later, though, her life is ruined by her mistake, and she is inescapably tormented by the damage she has done. Zola shows with her changing personality, how Therese’s vices end up leading to more discontent than living with dissatisfaction.

Written in the nineteenth century, Therese Raquin stands the test of time, because it is a distinct study of the human condition. The reader experiences a series of complex thoughts and emotions along with the characters, which keep the story interesting. Zola teaches the reader an important message: all people experience selfishness, dissatisfaction, greed, envy, but it is how they learn to live with it that matters. Thus, the tale remains relevant.

Final Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Review: Room by Emma Donoghue


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In Room, Emma Donoghue, challenges her reader to imagine the world of five-year-old boy, Jack, trapped in a room with his Ma, by captor, Old Nick. The author builds the novel around narrator, Jack’s, innocent, naive, confused point of view, which draws the reader in as empathic listener and participant in his genuine story. The reader is touched, saddened, disturbed by Donoghue’s thorough and authentic portrayal of the differences in perspective and coping mechanisms in child and adult. Donoghue portrays inevitable changes in Jack; and, the reader is impacted along with him, as his story and psyche evolve and his childhood thoughts, emotions, and experiences merge with those of an adult. The reader follows Jack’s thoughts, increasingly concerned and engrossed, moving closer to understanding as his perspective shifts from innocence to experience

Donoghue’s narration sends information about Jack and his Ma’s lives from a small child’s perspective, which asks the reader to consider the differences in thought and emotion between children and adults. Jack tells the reader what he knows and sees, which the reader soon discovers is nothing outside of Room: he knows Ma, Old Nick, Bed, Lamp, TV, but nothing outside, and no other people. The author encourages the reader to think about the benefits of a child’s lack of knowledge. Only after thinking about the scene through the eyes of a child, does the reader interpret the perceptions into an adult’s world view, and realize Jack is sheltered by his age. While Jack fails to grasp the heaviness of never leaving Room, as he continues his story, the reader sees and feels the weight of the situation through Ma. In Room, Ma’s adulthood and understanding of their situation leave her to suffer alone. She and Jack experience things separately, because of their different levels of cognition and comprehension; Jack stays uninvolved and sheltered and Ma is exposed to the truth. But, Ma and the reader know Jack won’t remain unaffected forever.

The author starts Jack’s story with him young and naive, but as he learns and grows, a process of realization and understanding occurs for both character and reader. Through Jack’s past and present experiences, the reader is forced to think about the impact of maturation and gained understanding on memory and perception. There are unsettling and unfamiliar moments when Jack’s too small to know what’s happening, for example, when Jack hears Ma being raped and physically abused by Old Nick or “when Ma goes away.” Both reader and Jack sense something is wrong, but he doesn’t know what he sees or hears. Things that the child cannot fathom are pieced together as the child ages, so that these scenes are more salient and impactful later in the story. When Jack is older and wiser, he starts to comprehend the truth and gravity of his experiences, and he starts to think critically. He reflects about his overall experience instead of focusing on single thoughts or events, when he considers, “Ma said we’d be free but this doesn’t feel like free.” (257) The reader watches Jack go from complete ignorance to understanding new concepts and thinking in complex new ways. His transition from boy to young adult leaves a lasting impression on him and the reader, because now he knows and must process the serious nature of things the reader grasps from the beginning.

Room is an unmatched shared experience between narrator and reader. Donoghue pulls at the heart strings of the reader: he or she feels like a five-year-old child and cares for him like a parent. Through Jack’s story, she conveys a deep dark place in a child’s memory that most adults don’t know how or can’t remember how to access. This perfect blend of child and adult thought and emotion, navigates the reader seamlessly through one boy’s struggle and evolution, vividly, honestly, unforgettably.

Final Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

More Information:

Film:  Room (2015)

Review: Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center


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In Everyone is Beautiful Katherine Center creates an enjoyable and relaxing story, which focuses on protagonist Elena’s quest for self-exploration and growth as she navigates the serious and amusing aspects of everyday life, guiding herself and the reader to approach things in new ways. Center creates a familiar and likable young mother and wife who tries her best to find balance and purpose but struggles to accept and love the person she is instead of the person she wants to be. Through Elena, the author asks the reader to consider how thought processes, viewpoints and attitudes can alter contexts in which people view the world. Both the reader and Elena gain insight as the story progresses; they learn to separate the things that seem important from the people and ideas that truly help individuals and families grow and prosper with time.

The novel begins with a distraught, overwhelmed and confused narrator who is uncertain about how to handle her thoughts and emotions about the issues that make up her everyday life, which shows the reader how the thought processes and emotions of a person in stress change her perceptions of herself and the world around her. As Elena provides her point-of-view about areas of her life where she feels as though she is failing, such as parenting, marriage, self-esteem, and self-fulfillment, the reader knows the feeling. As her story continues and she discusses her ideas about needing to change her looks or her parenting lacking the finesse of other mothers, she starts to realize that she is negatively biased about her personal qualities. She explains, for example, that her husband Peter, looks at her with love, so he sees beauty in her that she does not. Instead of trying to improve her life by adapting her looks and personality to fit an ideal, Elena shows the reader that approaching her flaws as her husband does makes her experiences more pleasant.  Elena’s own attempts to understand and accept who she is, are a turning point in her life, which make the reader think about his or her own thoughts and actions. Through Elena, the author provides the reader significant messages about the power of the mind to impact self-satisfaction.

The author depicts Elena’s transitions from complete helplessness to more self-aware and secure to show the reader the power thoughts and emotions play in determining a person’s unhappiness or contentedness in life. At first, Elena, like most people, thinks she needs to change who she is to find satisfaction. The reader is both intrigued and saddened by the familiar comparisons and thoughts of shame that fill Elena’s mind throughout the day as she measures herself next to others in all areas of her life and finds she never matches up. But the more Elena makes comparisons, she recognizes judgement is futile. For example, she observes, all children have unique personalities, so parents should not judge each other’s parenting styles. The more Elena makes similar conclusions, both she and the reader feel happier and more contented about their own individual characteristics. In the end, the reader is pleased to conclude that everyone is different and that makes them beautiful.

Center uses Everyone is Beautiful to discuss how we actively choose, often without realizing, to make our lives better or worse. She writes about imperfections and uncertainties in the narrator, which connect to the heart of the reader via his or her own feelings and experiences and make the novel memorable and pleasurable. By the end of the novel, the reader sees how Elena has changed; her life is better because she is okay with being her best self. As a reader, it is gratifying to find that the things we find challenging or stressful in life can take on new meaning when considered in another manner.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


Review: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty


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Liane Moriarty’s smart and steady adult contemporary best-seller, The Husband’s Secret, entertains and disturbs by portraying and connecting people in the story in ways that make the reader question how relationships, secrets, and choices define its characters and people in real life. The reader experiences a week in the lives of several likable characters from different families living in Sydney and Melbourne whose lives are intertwined in both the past and present. As detailed accounts of character traits and histories unfold, the reader is invested in their experiences and considers the broader implications of their decisions, in part because they are uniquely human and flawed. The reader notices ways the things people let go or carry with them change lives.

The author gains the reader’s interest and consideration by creating a quick-paced and mysterious story with many interesting characters, whose secrets and the choices they make as a result, impact their lives, changing the ways they view themselves, those around them, and the world. Using protagonist, Cecilia Fitzpatrick, who finds an envelope addressed to her from her husband John-Paul, to be opened upon his death, the author asks the reader to consider the results of harboring secrets. The  unanswered questions Moriarty devises about her characters, create a suspenseful story and make the reader think about how choices to be dishonest or truthful govern outcomes of situations in the real world. When Cecilia and the reader learn John-Paul’s secret together, the reader empathizes with Cecilia’s doubts and hesitancy to reveal him; her instinct is to protect her family instead of doing “the right thing.” The characters and the story are intriguing because the reader can both distance him or herself from the fictional characters and still perceive the events happening to real people in real situations.

The reader is invested in, concerned about and affected by the various characters, who are likable and believable because of their mistakes and imperfections. As Cecilia’s family mysteries are revealed, among others, the reader notices in the thoughts and actions of different characters, things they each hide. Tess has Social Anxiety Disorder. Felicity is in love with her best friend’s and cousin’s husband. Connor doesn’t really have an alibi for the day of Janie Crowley’s murder. Rachel Crowely, Janie’s mother, hates her life and most everyone in it. Still, the reader is not disgusted or repelled by these faults and blunders.  Instead, no matter how different a character is from the reader, the character is significant and understandable. As if the lives of the characters are his or her own, the reader is on their side, and he or she finds him or herself wanting to know more.  The reader quickly reads and turns the pages to see how things will end, because no matter the result for the characters, Moriarty makes them and their circumstances genuine.

The Husband’s Secret, is successful and memorable, because it entertains while also posing relevant questions about the reader’s experiences. He or she enjoys the characters for their individuality, yet they stand out because of the ways they excite the reader and make him or her wonder: what decision will she make? how will her choice affect others? would I or could I do the same? The reader sees through the lenses of the characters and story, more than a well written mystery; he or she starts to see how this mystery exists in his or her life too.

Final Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman


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The Ocean at the End of the Lane relates the reflections of the unnamed narrator’s past through a colorful and entertaining world of fantasy and fairytales to communicate important concepts about a person’s transition from childhood to adulthood and the differences in thought processes and perceptions of children and adults. Gaiman incites feelings, images, and ideas that take the reader back to childhood; and, he unveils the distance, alienation, and longing the narrator experiences as an adult, in attempting to go back and remember people, places, and events exactly as they once were. Through the lens of well-crafted imagination and fancy, the reader absorbs and visualizes the narrator’s unusual tale, ending the journey thinking differently about his or her own relationship with his identity and the past.

As the narrator travels to his childhood home, trying to remember it as it was, he shows the reader that something intangible separates the ideas and perceptions of childhood from the memories and experiences of adults. He points out that in his mind, he only exists as a child in the places from his past, leading to sense of estrangement. Then, he retains the ability to recall his memories as he experienced them, which allows the realization that children have more insight than adults realize. He recollects, “Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have.” (112) He remembers ideas and points-of-view he only knew back then. In this way, the narrator represents a self-awareness that is missing in adults. His pursuit of recollection and truth in moments long forgotten is a reminder for the reader to open-mindedly approach the present as a child does.

The author uses inventiveness and creativity to build a world, which takes the reader back in time, and allows him or her more receptive, youthful thoughts. Gaiman introduces the reader to the adult narrator, who dismisses the magic from his past as unrealistic and invalid. Next, he exposes the reader to the child’s memories, so the reader is challenged along with the narrator, to see and feel how memories change, are lost,  and distorted with time. Now, the reader sees the divide between concepts and events a child thinks and believes and those an adult accepts, such as the idea, “I was no longer cold and I knew everything and I was not hungry and the whole big, complicated world was simple and graspable and easy to unlock. I would stay here for the rest of time in the ocean which was the universe which was the soul which was all that mattered.” (145)  Gaiman asks the reader, to think like a child, which allows for a different kind of incite. The author uses imagery and invention to distinguish between the emotions, thoughts, and experiences of child and adult in ways which connect the reader to both. Thus, the reader understands and relates to the child who accepts the reality of his circumstances without question, and the adult who does not believe in the accuracy of his own memories or in the possibility of the unexplained.

Gaiman’s novella is a successful journey in the heart and mind of the reader, whom Gaiman wisely observes, always maintains elements of both child and adult. With this keen observation in tow, he shapes an original universe, where the adult mind enjoys, ponders, and participates in the wondrous recollections of a child. It is common knowledge that the past is gone, and you can’t go back in time. Gaiman proves this concept wrong.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Review: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene’ Brown


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The Gifts of Imperfection is a well written, thoroughly researched, compassionate must read book from the perspective of a seasoned and trustworthy professional, which contains a plethora of concrete information about how to live more genuinely and capably in the face of fear and self-doubt. Brene’ Brown writes her guide to achieving self-acceptance, self-esteem and well-rounded living, by focusing on her years of research on shame, fear, and vulnerability, providing the reader with specific ways people think and act that either challenge or welcome the topics. She highlights both hindrances and aids to living fully in ten guideposts or chapters, in which she explains ways people can use the information she’s learned from her research to let go of negative thoughts and emotions and let in the things that provide joy and contentment. The author’s ability to communicate, her status as an empathetic peer, and knowledge as a practiced researcher and social worker, shine through her writing, expertly bringing together her writing style and the useful information she imparts.

Brown writes intelligently and from the heart about the findings of her decade long research, providing personal anecdotes to frame the information, which humanizes her ideas, making the research less scientific and more relatable and applicable for the reader. The author tells the story of her own journey of curiosity, exploration, and growth which develops alongside her shame research. Brown tells about using her data to assemble a “do” and “don’t” list for feeding shame, fear, and vulnerability, and realizing, “This is just great, I’m living straight down the shit list.” (xii) When she admits that this led to her “2007 Breakdown Spiritual Awakening,” the reader feels comforted and less overwhelmed by learning he or she is living similarly. By telling her own story and those of family, friends, and contributors to her blog, Brown powerfully and positively influences the reader’s experience of reading, processing, and retaining essential concepts.

This book provides its reader with a wealth of helpful and applicable information to be used now and in the future, not only planting the seeds for thinking about changing perspectives on shame, but providing the building blocks for developing new ways of thinking, acting, and living. Brown doesn’t simply suggest that a reader combat shame, for example, she tells how the people in her research live successful, complete lives in the face of it: with courage, compassion, and connection. In this example, one of many in the book where she shows not tells the reader how to enact change, there are clear definitions of the three C’s. The reader learns about living courageously and compassionately by the research Brown cites and examples she gives from people’s personal experiences. Brown efficiently communicates using similar methods for teaching the reader her other topics, which range from cultivating a resilient spirit, cultivating creativity, to cultivating meaningful work. The reader finishes the book both satisfied with the results and ready to read it again, knowing new ideas will be available each time through.

The winning combination of Brown’s personality, expertise and wisdom is irresistible and not to be missed. Both her personal and work experiences stand alone as readable material, but together they are entertaining and therapeutic. Any person looking to make his or her life better should look no further than The Gifts of Imperfection, as Brown has discovered in her research an area of sociology from which we can all benefit in a myriad of ways.


Rating: 5 out of 5

Review: Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up by Harriet Lerner


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Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up is not so much a typical self-help book as it is a set of helpful suggestions, for maintaining a healthy relationship or mending a broken one pieced together, by a seasoned expert in the fields of psychology and family relationships. Harriet Lerner doesn’t waste time with wordy prose, instead she effectively provides a list of 106 rules, divided into ten chapters, which suggest concrete examples of common issues and ways to alter perspectives and behaviors to improve relationships. Despite the sound information she gives, it is difficult as a reader to learn about all the possible missteps he or she is making without feeling overwhelmed and defeated. Still, if the reader wants to learn and change, Lerner imparts something to take away from each example.

Lerner’s rules are diverse, concrete and are sure to contain advice which applies to every reader looking to improve his or her relationship. The author gives the reader ideas about how to change his or her own behaviors in ways that will positively impact both partners. She gives specific examples of how to create a more loving and positive atmosphere by pointing out things many people do in relationships that cause tension and suggests alternatives, such as only criticizing once per day or telling your partner things you admire about him or her. She points out important aspects to maintaining successful relationships over time, which most people are not aware of, such as: marriage expert Goldman says a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative interactions are necessary for a lasting marriage. The reader may feel like he or she is doing many things wrong, or that this might lead to a break up, but Lerner has suggestions for every situation.

The author gives advice for happy couples, those who don’t get along, or those on the verge of splitting up, which is a bit unsettling, but also means any reader can take ideas from a variety of examples and apply them for his or her own purposes. By showing couples at different stages, Lerner, gives the reader a chance to reflect on his or her own relationship, roles within the relationship, and how it might change in the future. The reader wonders, for example, if he or she exhibits the problem behaviors that lead to divorce. In allowing the reader to consider different options, for failure and improvement, Lerner literally helps the reader make better choices for his or her relationship. Her rules support and empower decisions for the reader.

No one ever says marriage is easy. We know all relationships take work. Most partnerships don’t have a guidebook like this one, with straight-forward advice. If you’re ready, use it and welcome it. No matter what the circumstance of the reader, Marriage Rules is a start to making changes from within you’ll need to improve your life with another person.

3.5 out of 5 stars