Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Marriage Pact

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond
Penguin Random House: 7/25/17
eBook review copy; 432 pages
ISBN-13: 9780385343299

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond is a recommended novel of suspense.

Alice, a lawyer who used to be a singer in a well-known regional rock group, and Jake, a partner and therapist in a psychology practice, are newlyweds living in San Francisco who have been given an odd wedding gift that requires some explanation from the giver. Alice impulsively invited Liam Finnegan, a client who is a famous Irish musician, and his wife to her wedding. They not only attend the wedding, but he sent the gift, a special wooden box that can only be opened with a key. Inside is an offer to join The Pact, a secret group that enforces rules to keep marriages intact and partners committed for life. Jake and Alice decide to join the group, after all its goal is to keep marriages happy and intact, and sign the contract without carefully reading it or the huge manual of rules.

They are instructed to memorize the rules and are not allowed to talk about The Pact. At first it doesn't seem too bad, They are invited to glamorous parties hosted by members who live in the area, but Alice mistakenly talks about her long days at work, which gets her into trouble with The Pact, resulting in reconditioning, and monitoring. Soon it is apparent that enforcement of The Pacts rules results in greater consequences than one would expect, including incarceration and torture in a private prison. The rub is the contract is for life and there is no backing out or changing your mind.

The Marriage Pact starts off strong. The quality of the writing is good. The concept of a secret group that enforces rules to keep marriages strong and the partners committed for life is intriguing. Most of the rules make perfect sense: always answer your partner's phone calls, take a trip or vacation once every three months, give your partner a gift chosen specifically for them monthly, don't keep secrets from your partner, and, naturally, no adultery.

Soon, however, the story becomes increasingly implausible. It was difficult to believe that a lawyer and a therapist would enter into the cult-like Pact without carefully examining the contract and the rules manual. No matter how secret membership in the group is, people aren't going to passively tolerate many of the enforcement policies. You can't always ignore work expectations just because some overtime or staying late to finish up a big project is required.  Admittedly, one of my first thoughts when Pact enforcement officers broke in to take someone to the prison was it was a home invasion - first arm yourself, then call the police.  Also an organization like this is not going to be kept a secret. (Look at other cults/organizations that expect secrecy.)

In the end, I enjoyed The Marriage Pact as a pleasant diversion. The narration is through Jake's point of view, so that is how we are introduced to all the characters. Although he is a trained observer, character development is lacking. This can be overlooked because Richmond keeps the action moving along at a fast pace (or it can be read quickly). I found myself able to suspend the majority of my disbelief and scoffing at the character's reactions as I anxiously read what happened next to Alice and Jake. Great choice for an airplane book. It is an engaging book that will hold your attention but you won't cry if you lose it or misplace it.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.

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