The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond
Penguin Random House: 7/25/17
eBook review copy; 432 pages
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.
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.