Alice and Jake, newly married in San Francisco, make a big mistake in signing up with a secret international cult dedicated to making sure wedding vows do indeed last until death.
Jake is a marriage counselor and therapist; Alice is a rocker-turned–corporate lawyer. A famous Irish musician represented in a copyright case by Alice’s firm is a last-minute invite to their wedding, and it is he who arranges their most peculiar wedding gift: “a substantial, elegant wood box” labeled The Pact. Jake is thinking it contains scotch, which would be bad—they met at rehab—but it’s worse than that. Inside the box is “The Manual,” a huge tome in tiny print containing regulations like those of Unit 3.12, Health and Fitness, which specifies that neither partner may gain more than 10 percent of what they weigh on their wedding day. Other rules require that couples exchange thoughtful gifts monthly, take a trip together once a quarter, always answer a spouse’s telephone call, and never, ever mention The Pact to anyone. Also mandatory is timely attendance at the group’s parties, meetings, and one-on-one sessions. Because Jake fails to carefully read the manual, he’s surprised when the penalties for noncompliance start rolling in. For example, at their first weigh-in, they learn extra pounds will constitute a Misdemeanor Six. “After that, things get a little sticky,” says a “Friend,” as the group members creepily address each other. “You two really need to do your homework.” Alice’s workaholic tendencies first land her in a nonremovable metal cuff bracelet that may contain surveillance technology, but that’s a gentle whisper of what’s in store for these two; Redmond’s (Golden State, 2014, etc.) novel will appeal to those with a weakness for punishment porn. Also, fans of unsurprising factoids—married people live longer than single people, the best predictor of a marriage’s success is credit scores, the higher your income, the more likely you are to get married. Judicious editing would have made a difference.
The idea of this book is interesting, and it could have had Stepford Wives–type potential for social commentary. Unfortunately, it's weighed down by a weak, repetitive thriller plot.