An examination of a Hollywood power couple and the disintegration of their relationship in the wake of life-altering successes and losses.
The novel begins as screenwriter Ben Livingston is lamenting the unraveling of his marriage. It's the anniversary of his brother’s death, and he's visiting a California beach that was special to both of them to honor his brother's memory. As he gazes out to sea, he finds himself hoping that his estranged wife, Tatum Connelly, will appear. Instead, his college girlfriend, Amanda, the person who became the other woman in his marriage, shows up, and Ben wonders if it’s a sign from the universe. As the book unfolds, Scotch (The Song Remains the Same, 2017, etc.) takes the reader on a journey back in time, showing the complicated trajectory of Ben and Tatum’s relationship. When they first met, Ben was a grad student working on an independent film, while Tatum was an aspiring actress tending bar in Manhattan. As the reader watches the pair grow closer, Ben is the one whose star shines brightest, until Tatum taps into a new wellspring of acting potential. Once Hollywood’s it boy, Ben allows his career to tank after suffering the losses of his father and brother. As Tatum rises to meteoric stardom, the couple’s now opposing career paths put enormous strain on their relationship, allowing Ben to retreat into himself and even to reconnect with Amanda. Instead of feature films, Ben finds himself writing for (gasp) television, and Tatum, who once couldn’t find work, is suddenly an Oscar contender. Interspersed between each of these chapters of strife, Scotch deftly places other chapters showing the couple growing closer years before, the contrast making their unwinding all the more devastating. In accessible and captivating prose, Scotch’s narrative voice is at once impishly current and timelessly wise as she shows Tatum and Ben contemplating whether to simply let go.
A thought-provoking romance that is fresh, insightful, and clever in its execution.