THE REAL THING by Ellen McCarthy


Lessons on Love and Life from a Wedding Reporter's Notebook
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Washington Post journalist investigates the lives of real-life couples to understand what goes into making relationships work.

McCarthy became the weddings beat reporter for her newspaper in 2009—ironically, on the same day she broke up with her then-boyfriend. In the months and years that followed, she spoke with dozens of couples from all walks of life seeking insight on “this thing called love.” The author delivers a compilation of the best of these interviews, which she interweaves with words of wisdom drawn from relationship experts, therapists, researchers and her own experience. Like Nikki, the happily married African-American technology manager, and Daniel, her much shorter Jewish husband, singles should “never say never” to what appears different from what they expected or wanted. Openness to others, as well as to different methods of locating a potential partner, is a must. Once in a relationship, people need to steer clear of illusions that a life lived in tandem is all about “champagne and sweet nothings.” Good relationships require tolerance, compromise, and an understanding that a spouse cannot and should not be “our everything.” And while breaking up may be hard to do, those who go through it need to experience it fully and completely because nothing, including denial, “will allow [them] to sidestep the stages of grief.” When two people decide to formalize their relationship with a wedding, the biggest challenge will be to sift through the “million ways to make the occasion magical” while keeping their cools. Making that marriage last is the final frontier. But as McCarthy’s story of Bob and Henry, a couple that stayed together for 62 years, suggests, little things, like saying, “please, thank you and excuse me,” are what ultimately make the difference.

Straight-talking, but hardly groundbreaking, dating advice for adults of all ages.

Pub Date: April 21st, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-345-54969-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2015


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