LOVE'S LABORS by Daniel Roche


A Story of Marriage and Divorce
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A curiously unfeeling account of a marriage of the 1980s that ended in childless divorce after eight years. Launching a relationship that was to be “different,” Roche (Creative Writing/Univ. of Central Arkansas) and Julie Elman, who met in karate class, made their first date an 80-mile bicycle trip. They opted for the Peace Corps instead of a honeymoon, and when the Peace Corps assignment fizzled, they settled arbitrarily in Denver, with no jobs and no prospects. Back home in Ohio, Roche found a job while Julie enrolled in graduate school on the other side of the state, establishing the pattern of separations that would last the rest of the marriage. In a reversal of traditional roles, she was restless, he “patient and generous,” practicing the “art of sacrifice” and setting goals for the relationship (long-term, stable, fostering both independence and self- sacrifice). Julie did her adventurous thing, which included jobs in distant settings, plus a six-month solo trek along the Appalachian Trail. Roche’s own two stints in graduate school, plus a summer in Europe—also solo—left the couple with what amounted to a weekend marriage. He had an affair, which he told her about after the fact; she had an affair but asked his permission first. After one last summer of living together and trying to turn their “fantasies about each other” into reality, they divorced. Roche found another partner quickly, but questions—and anger—about his first marriage continued to surface. He put them to rest with this book, which opens and closes at lunch Ö trois with his first and second wives. From a player who seems more a distant observer, a memoir that offers the reader neither personal passion nor useful insight on so-called “starter marriages.”

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-57322-067-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999