This novel about a couple that agrees to have an open marriage, for a limited time only and while adhering to certain rules, is a polished, amusing, and highly entertaining take on modern relationships, parenthood, and suburbia.
When Owen and Lucy—an attractive young married couple who, shortly after their on-the-spectrum 5-year-old son, Wyatt, was born, swapped their hip New York City existence for life in a small, “pretty Norman Rockwell-y” Hudson Valley town—first hear, one boozy night, about Brooklyn friends’ plan to allow each other to have sex with other people, they are scandalized. But soon, they find themselves drawing up a set of rules spelling out for themselves a similar arrangement, a finite period of infidelity, a six-month marital “rumspringa,” Owen calls it: no falling in love, no talking about it or snooping, no sex with anyone in their crowd, no looking too happy, and definitely no leaving. “We’re joking about this, right?” Owen asks. “Yes, we’re joking,” says Lucy. But then, it turns out, no, they aren’t. What follows is a superfun, pleasingly light romp through the promise and pitfalls of marital infidelity, the trials and rewards of parenting, and the joys and frustrations of life in an upscale small town for the transplanted urban couple. The premise may sound contrived, its subject matter trite and fluffy, and its characters overly stereotypical, and it likely would be in less able hands. But Dunn, an accomplished TV writer and producer (Murphy Brown, Spin City, Bunheads, American Housewife) who has written two previous novels (The Big Love, 2004, and Secrets to Happiness, 2009), is a total pro—and the book is smartly conceived, sharply written, perfectly paced, and, even at its most madcap moments, entirely believable and engaging. Despite Owen and Lucy’s self-made troubles, they are eminently sympathetic and disarmingly appealing, as are the parade of amusing supporting characters and plotlines. (More Sunny Bang, please!) Chick lit? Perhaps, but, witty and well-written, it’s the most satisfying sort—a true guilty pleasure.
Dunn’s dryly humorous story about a marriage that goes dangerously off-road never loses its groove.