Marriage is a once-indomitable institution in decline. Books like Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies and Kate Bolick’s Atlantic article of the same name confirm this for us. We’re getting married less, and staying married less often.
So what should we do about it? In Michelle Richmond’s thriller The Marriage Pact, power couples have decided to take the power of marriage back, by any means necessary. Meet the namesake Pact, a secret society intent on developing great marriages. Think of a chic, jetsetting, Scientology-esque group of obsessive mate-pleasers.
But just what makes a successful marriage? When Alice and Jake are invited to join the secret club after their wedding, they’re all in. Every newly-wedded couple can use some help, right? What sounds simple becomes a controlling and torturous power game, as The Pact takes things to another level. Spousal support of all kinds is demanded, and The Pact will be there to enforce the rules when they aren’t followed.
Sure, it sounds cheesy, right? And it is, a bit. The best thrillers are aware of the genre and not afraid to dive on into the deep end. Or they draw themselves on out of it and head away from the genre entirely. But I digress. I judge straight thrillers solely on how well they keep me craving the next page, drawing me forward into the story, not on how well they reinvent the wheel. The Marriage Pact had me falling deeper and deeper through a rabbit hole of exhausting demands with Alice and Jake. The novel’s exploration of society’s expectations of marriage was an interesting and thoughtful twist, like slowing down to peer at emotional wreckage while speeding ahead on a thrill ride.
While this was one thrill ride I thoroughly enjoyed, I was disappointed when it abruptly ended and I was forced to get off. The Marriage Pact‘s ending was the book’s only letdown, as it felt forced, but perhaps left an opening for a follow-up. I didn’t buy the character’s choices in the last few pages, but of course I’ll buy the sequel if there is one. I’m a lover, not a fighter. Pact, I’m here for you, ’till death do us part.