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Rules of Engagement: Four Couples and American Marriages Today

Rules of Engagement: Four Couples and American Marriages Today

by Lis Harris

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Harris (Holy Days: The World of a Hasidic Family), a staff writer at the New Yorker, presents four couples as representing varieties of American marriage in the late 20th century, though four couples can hardly stand for all marriages. Over several years, she consorted with an upper-class couple in New York City, a middle-class African American couple, a blue-collar couple and a couple best described as determinedly bohemian. Being privy to these vastly differing marriages allowed Harris to draw interesting, even entertaining conclusions. For instance, all four couples agreed that none of them was prepared for the reality of marital life (who is?). In a pleasing anecdotal style, especially with the story of the upper-class pair, the author conveys her respect for the eight people who allowed her into their lives, as well as her appreciation for marriage as an institution that, however challenged, is still viable. (Sept.)
Donna Seaman
Harris is able to insinuate herself into people's lives and then describe them succinctly and insightfully. A "New Yorker" staff writer whose first book was about Hasidic life, Harris decided to write about contemporary marriage to see how that most basic of human units has fared in light of the changes the women's movement has wrought. Harris, who must be easy to talk to (she's certainly a pleasure to read), found four couples willing to share their private selves: the McLanes, an upper-class couple; the Robbins, a blue-collar couple; the Jacksons, a middle-class African American couple; and the Clarks, the most egalitarian and artistic of the bunch. Each couple's story is compelling, as true stories always are. Harris manages to cover family histories, courtship, sex, money issues, arguments, children, and housework. What emerges from these intriguing anatomies of marriages is that the improved status of women has changed marriage for the better and that people work "terribly hard all the time" both at their jobs and at their relationships.

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Simon & Schuster
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Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.54(h) x 0.89(d)

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