Hughes (Achieve Your Dreams, 2015, etc.) lucidly explores relationships via the tribulations of an embattled married couple in this novel.
Brynn Malley has fallen out of love with her husband, Marcus, whom she feels mistreats, emotionally abuses, and misunderstands her. As her marriage incrementally fractures, she has a series of impulsive sexual encounters, sometimes in her own marital bed, with several men of varying levels of attractiveness and carnal ability. Although many people would consider her acts morally deplorable, she feels that they’re righteous and justified, and has no guilt or remorse. Meanwhile, her stressed-out husband ponders his chaotic relationship with his angry, short-tempered wife, whom he calls a “squeaky wheel.” But even though they constantly bicker, he feels that without Brynn, he’s “basically just a bored, boring person.” When he catches a man hastily sneaking out of their home, though, it ignites a vicious, ultimately physical altercation. The murder of Brynn fully engages local media outlets, as well as a conflicted federal prosecutor, Joseph Bronson. Although Bronson seeks capital punishment for Marcus, he also sees some similarities in the case to his own marriage, which has devolved into passionless “brotherly love” for his wife, Marie. This book offers a fever dream of thoughts, emotions, and events surrounding a disintegrating marriage, and Hughes delivers all the elements with brevity and palpable intensity that will leave readers wanting more. The story succinctly examines the nature of infidelity, the mutative qualities of love, and philanderer’s guilt. It also looks into what the narrator calls the bitter “unspoken vows” of matrimony, in which “the typical married woman resigns herself to a life of sexual mediocrity” and thus has every right to find happiness elsewhere. “The darkness within us all too often overcomes the dim light between us,” Hughes reflects, and his book effectively explores the desperate actions and consequences of a claustrophobic, combustible marriage.
A swift, economical, and powerful story that conveys a range of interpersonal perspectives on marriage.