I am honored to close this week’s festivities for Jenny Gardiner and her fantastic debut novel, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver. It truly is an honest, brassy, HIGHLY relatable look at what happens to many marriages a few years and a few children in—covering so much more than just loss of that initial spark, when passion dissolves into comfort (and sometimes malaise). It’s about sharing responsibilities, about respect, about communication, about growing up, about never forgetting to see the world through your partner’s eyes. And as Lisa said in her eloquent post on Wednesday, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver is, at its heart, a love story—or rather, a falling-in-love-again-with-the-same-person story.
As the only Deb who has been divorced, Jenny’s novel really made me think. I mean, REALLY made me think. What makes some marriages salvageable and others doomed? Some people would say that all marriages should be salvageable, that too many things are already disposable in society today, that marriage is a sacred bond, and so on. And others might say that life is too short to spend unhappy or with the wrong person, that people can change in sometimes negative ways, that some transgressions are unforgivable, etcetera ad nauseum. I’m certainly no expert, but perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the messy middle, where things like fundamental compatibility, chemistry, personal histories, values, goals, and communication styles flow together in a bright and constantly-evolving kaleidoscope that can tip the balance either way. Depending.
Jenny explores this territory beautifully. Nobody likes to talk about the day-to-dayness of marriage—we’re so much more a culture of fireworks and hearts and roses and Viagra and KY Warming Gel. Speaking of which, who’s going to need this stuff if they’re necking passionately and throwing articles of clothing around the room like the couple in the pre-Valentine’s Day commercial running on repeat on the Oxygen network? I want to see a couple in flannel PJs, no makeup, two days’ worth of leg or face stubble, David Letterman running through the Top Ten List in the background. It may not be the most romantic of scenarios (per conventional wisdom), but it’s perhaps more realistic and dare I say….intimate?
To write a credible love story (make that a funny, real, and moving credible love story) about two married people falling a little out of love and then back into it again, is the mark of a gifted writer. And Jenny Gardiner has done just that. Kudos to you, woman. And happy launch week!