4 out of 4 stars
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Jess Lawson is blindsided when her seemingly happy twenty-year marriage crumbles. Her husband, Arthur, believes their opposing careers caused the breakdown of their relationship, but Jess isn't convinced. Between Arthur's need to quickly wrap up the divorce and cohabitating with a new love interest, Jess is beginning to realize that their marriage has been in trouble for quite some time.
Luckily, her work as a health care consultant keeps her mind busy, and her college-aged children distract her from thinking about her failed marriage. Still, the divorce is hurting the kids, and Arthur is acting increasingly petty over splitting up their shared assets. Jess would love nothing more than to put this painful experience behind her and move on, but is it possible?
A Better Next by Maren Cooper is a thought-provoking fictional book about the deconstruction of marriage. The book is written in the third-person perspective, which allows readers to experience life through Jess's eyes. Readers are introduced to a woman who has worked hard to solidify a successful career while balancing the challenges of raising kids. Unfortunately, she is thrown a curveball when infidelity rears its ugly head. While it is not a story that highlights the favorable aspects of marriage, it speaks to women who are constantly challenged by the work-family balance. It is an expertly crafted portrayal of the pressures that modern-day women face when trying to be everything to everyone.
My favorite aspect of the book was the emotional connection I felt towards Jess. The author did an excellent job of conveying the plight of a rejected woman. Arthur's lack of empathy cut Jess to the core. It was unfathomable how someone could break their vows so carelessly and disregard their partner's feelings. The fact that he remained stoic about his infidelity had me reeling; I wanted to shake him and demand that he show some remorse!
Another thing that loved about the book was the presence of strong, independent women. Jess's friends, Diane and Claire, were both career-driven individuals who didn't give in to the societal pressures of fulfilling traditional gender roles. While Jess flirted with the idea of dating, it wasn't a huge priority for her. These women were content with their lives, with or without a partner.
As much as I loved the book, at times, the storyline seemed to drag. For most of the book, it carried on at a steady pace, but by the last half, it began losing momentum. The most significant conflict had already passed, and my attention span was starting to wane. Despite this shortcoming, the writing remained strong throughout, and the ending provided a reprieval from the lackluster second half. With that being said, I chose not to deduct a star, and I give it a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. I was impressed by the absence of errors, and the book was professionally edited.
I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to middle-aged women who have experienced the unraveling of a marriage; Jess's struggles will undoubtedly resonate with you! On the other hand, if you are a young reader seeking a conventional love story, I would look elsewhere as this book documents the uncoupling of a marriage plagued by infidelity.
A Better Next
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