April 8, 2019

Book Review: The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.

The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . . 

Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples. And then one of them breaks the rules.
The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule. For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

My main delight regarding The Marriage Pact has nothing to do with the writing or the plot – but simply with the setting of the San Francisco Bay Area. I could tell Michelle Richmond actually knew what she was talking because she wove local, nontouristy details that were like little Easter eggs – oh, I know that! I would exclaim as I came upon them. It’s heartwarming to see a place you know well and love represented authentically in fiction.  

But aside from the setting, what about the writing and the plot, you ask?  In one word, superb.  At first I was skeptical – how intelligent could Alice and Jake be if they allowed themselves to be sucked into this Pact and couldn’t they just drop out anytime they wanted? But the seduction of the couple is very convincing. Everything seems reasonable and common sensical – at first, and then things start getting intense, too intense.  It doesn’t take long before the demands of the Pact become overbearing, then downright scary.  

Plots like these work only when the protagonists act like you would act.  If they do everything you can think of the escape their predicament but are thwarted at every turn by seemingly omnipotent and omniscient forces.  I felt dread turning into panic for Alice and Jake as things go from worse to I think they're trapped for good.  Could their marriage, or they themselves, possibly survive The Pact?  

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