Still Life with Husband [NOOK Book]


Meet Emily Ross, thirty years old, married to her college sweetheart, and personal advocate for cake at breakfast time.

Meet Emily's husband, Kevin, a sweet technical writer with a passion for small ...
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Still Life with Husband

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Meet Emily Ross, thirty years old, married to her college sweetheart, and personal advocate for cake at breakfast time.

Meet Emily's husband, Kevin, a sweet technical writer with a passion for small appliances and a teary weakness for Little Women.

Enter David, a sexy young reporter with longish floppy hair and the kind of face Emily feels the weird impulse to lick.

In this captivating novel of marriage and friendship, Lauren Fox explores the baffling human heart and the dangers of getting what you wish for.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Editorial Reviews

Michiko Kakutani
… [the book] marks the debut of a delightful new voice in American fiction, a voice that instantly recalls the wry, knowing prose of Lorrie Moore crossed with the screwball talents of the cartoonist Roz Chast.
— The New York Times
Claudia Deane
First novelist Lauren Fox is a smooth, wry writer. Her primary achievement is taking you on a slow-motion, step-by-step trip down the infamous slippery slope, showing you how a bored but decent woman starts on high, safe ground and ends up in a ditch. Even more impressively, she does this without your completely losing sympathy for Emily, much as you would stick by your best friend even as you watched her taking out her frustrations on the people she loves.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Yes, it's an affair novel, but file this adroit but placid debut under chick lit for early marrieds-the ones who are not sure they want to be on the baby-house-'burbs track. At 30, Emily Ross is a Milwaukee freelance writer with a part-time job as assistant editor at a medical journal called Male Reproduction and a marriage to "steady, staid" Kevin, a technical writer she met in college. Kevin, "innocent and intolerable," wants a baby and a house. Emily is ambivalent and bored. A few pages in, Emily meets David Keller, a dark, good-looking writer/editor at the local alternative newspaper, and starts an affair. Things, as expected, do not go well, but Fox's voice is steady, moving easily between comedy and drama. Her emotionally literate delineation of character and relationship give the book texture, with Emily's relationship with her best friend, Meg, emerging as the book's most resonant. Fox draws just the right tension out of Emily's mix of honesty and self-delusion, reflection and romance, with an undercurrent of a sort of left-handed hope. For anyone who's lived through a relationship drama, though, Emily will have a decidedly entitled, gee-whiz quality that's hard to take. (Feb. 7) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A little flirting is harmless, right? Even if you have been married for nine years to your college sweetheart, men and women can be friends. That's what Emily Ross keeps telling herself after she catches the eye of David Keller in a coffee shop. Of course, that morning she just happened to have left her wedding ring at home. Emily and her husband, Kevin, have been happily married, but the marriage has hit a bumpy patch—he wants to have kids and move to the suburbs. Emily isn't ready for kids and loves living in the city close to their favorite restaurants and shops. Her best friend, Meg, is pregnant, so Emily worries about losing her friend to the thrall of motherhood. When Emily exchanges emails with David, she deludes herself into thinking that this could lead to work (she's a freelancer) rather than an affair. With this satisfying debut novel, Fox has written a twist on the typical chick lit tale. The story looks at happiness vs. loyalty and reconsiders the adage, Be careful what you wish for. Recommended for public libraries.
—Robin Nesbitt
Kirkus Reviews
A debut novel about a young woman who must decide whether to settle for her husband's suburban dreams. Emily Ross loves Kevin, her husband of nine years. But she doesn't want to leave their funky downtown Milwaukee apartment that's in walking distance of all their friends and favorite restaurants in favor of a suburban home just because mortgage rates are rising, which Kevin portentously points out, often. His other drumbeat has to do with having a baby: You're not getting any younger, he tells her, often. To 30-year-old Emily, that's not a persuasive argument. The fact is, she's not sure about having a baby, but she doesn't quite understand why. To complicate matters, lately children have been reminding her of tiny Zsa Zsa Gabors, chauffeured around in their tricked-out strollers, imperious and demanding. Normally, Emily would share her fears with her best friend, Meg. But Meg is eight-weeks pregnant and positively glowing. Besides, Meg wants Emily to have a baby, too. Into Emily's perplexity arrives David, a dreamy, dark-haired editor who works for a local paper. He wants her to write a column for him-and possibly something more. Emily walks the knife's edge as innocent emails between them evolve into strolls in the park and other "non-date" outings. Initially, she forgets to mention she is married, and there never seems a right time to bring it up. When she finally fesses up, their passions usurp the Midwestern morality both thought they possessed. Fox ably evokes the suffocation of a well-meaning but empty marriage and Emily's guilt-ridden but sexually charged affair. In her misery, Emily makes periodic observations that bring Lorrie Moore's wit to mind. But while she mentally whipsherself for betraying the loveable drudge Kevin, she's drinking lattes with her fun friend Meg and steaming up the sheets with dashing David. Lots of admirable writing about a banally self-centered character.
From the Publisher
“A delightful new voice in American fiction, a voice that instantly recalls the wry, knowing prose of Lorrie Moore crossed with the screwball talents of the cartoonist Roz Chast.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times“Any woman who's ever found herself looking at her life and wondering how on earth she wound up there will relate to the characters in this funny, honest novel.” —Jodi Picoult, author of Nineteen Minutes “Fox gives us an all-too-real glance into what most married people have at one time or another wondered about (if not acted upon): the thrill-ride of illicit love. Emily's first-person narrative may be laugh-out-loud funny, but it's also an honest, compassionate look at the heartbreak of misplaced intimacy.” —Amy Woods Butler, St. Louis Post-Dispatch“Read Still Life with Husband for its funny, winning voice and an ending that could be debated by book clubs for months to come.” —Ann Oldenburg, USA Today
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307267344
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/6/2007
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 253,272
  • File size: 300 KB

Meet the Author

Lauren Fox earned her MFA from the University of Minnesota in 1998. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Utne, Seventeen, Glamour, and Salon. She lives in Milwaukee with her husband and daughter. Still Life with Husband is her first novel.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Read an Excerpt

In the middle of the night I don’t know who he is, this man lying next to me, his leg brushing against my leg, arm draped over my hip. And that’s when I want him. I keep my eyes closed and turn toward him, stroking him softly, fingers skimming over his chest, his thighs, feathery touches light enough to wake up just the parts that matter. He responds, and we both know what to do, how not to talk, not even to whisper, letting our bodies move together in the dark. This is a man I picked up in a bar; this is a man whose name I don’t know; this is searing, anonymous sex with a stranger, and I’m using all of my senses and none of my heart. He rolls on top of me, heavy and hard, not kissing, hot hands all over me. I grab a condom from my night table and hand it to him.

“Emily,” he whispers, crashing rudely into my dream, breaking the rules of 2:00 a.m. sex. “Please?”

“No,” I say, my eyes still closed, arching toward him now in spite of myself. “Shhh.” I know what he wants, and I’m not prepared to give it to him.

“Baby,” he breathes, and I open my eyes to the face of my husband hovering over mine, earnest and needy, the man I have known since college, the man I share a bathroom with, the man who cried during Little Women, who thinks I don’t know that he plucks his nose hairs, who’s afraid of raisins because they remind him of mouse droppings. “Baby,” he whispers again, and I sigh, fully here now, fully awake and resigned to it. And this is how we finish, knowing everything about each other, completely together, naked and silent and half-satisfied in the middle of the night.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Reading Group Guide

1. What does Emily's dream in the opening scene say about Emily's state of mind, and her marriage [pp. 3-4]? How effective is it as a prelude to the story that follows?

2. Emily and Meg joke that they want to start a girl group called 'N Secure. Emily suggests, “I'll be the drummer . . . but I'll just drum really quietly. And after every song we can kind of sidle up to the microphone and say, 'Was that okay?'” [p. 6]. How would you characterize Emily's sense of humor? What scenes or passages do you find most funny in the novel?

3. In her conversation with Meg about Meg's pregnancy, Emily is ashamed to admit that she is unsure she'll ever be ready to have a baby [p. 9]. Why is this something Emily feels guilty about?

4. Discuss the scene in the café when Emily meets David. Is agreeing to meet him for coffee okay, or not okay? Is Meg right in saying "there's a line, you know, and it seemed like you crossed it" [p. 15]? What does Meg mean by "a line," and do you agree that Emily crossed it? How much freedom can, or should, married women have in this kind of situation?

5. How sympathetic a character is Kevin? Does he come across as a solid, dependable man who loves his wife? Or as a conventional, controlling person who wants to push Emily into a life she doesn't want? Noticing his reading material, Sound Investments for the Careful Planner, Emily feels “a familiar pang of love for my steady, staid husband. He's like a brick wall you can lean against when you're tired-immobile, rutted with predictable grooves, always there” [p. 27]. What does this thought indicate about Emily's feelings toward Kevin?

6. Is Emily's friendship with Meg more important to her, in a sense, than her marriage to Kevin? What does the friendship suggest about women's bonds with each other as opposed to their bonds with their spouses?

7. Emily wonders whether her restlessness is caused by marriage itself: “Being married is like reading the same novel over and over again. You might discover new subtleties of language on the twenty-millionth read-through, a metaphor or two you'd missed before, but the plot is always the same. Kevin is in a bad mood, and there's nothing I can do about it: chapter six” [p. 81]. Is Emily right about the inherent problems in marriage? If so, should she allow herself, at least briefly, the excitement of getting to know David?


While the tone of the novel is mostly comic, events such as Meg's successive miscarriages and Emily's accidental pregnancy are evidence of a greater seriousness that is also important to the story. Meg and Emily are only thirty; does it seem as though they are having difficulty finding the maturity to handle what is happening in their lives?

9. Emily is overwhelmed by guilt when she acknowledges the seriousness of cheating on Kevin [pp. 228-29]. Realizing she may be pregnant, she thinks, “I'm not a good person; I'm not the Emily I thought I was” [p. 236]. How important is this realization, and what does it suggest about people's perceptions of themselves?

10. The dilemma of Emily's pregnancy is that she doesn't know whether the father is Kevin or David. How does this fact affect your experience of the story, and of Emily's character? Does her impulsive behavior with David-“propelled by a combination of longing and recklessness” -seem understandable, if unlucky, or on the other hand, does it seem self-destructive, as well as cruel to Kevin [p. 149]?

11. Why does Emily tell Kevin she's pregnant before she knows who the father is? It raises the question of whether there might have been some way of determining the child's paternity-a DNA test on the amniotic fluid perhaps-which would have allowed her to proceed with more certainty. Why do you think Fox chose not to pursue such a plotline?

12. Emily's mother tells her, “You married a kind, gentle, intelligent man who doesn't seem to place much value on the fine art of communication. Darling, you married your father. Perhaps you could have done better. But believe me, you could have done worse” [p. 158]. Why does this conversation enrage Emily?

13. Fox creates several scenes that center on Emily's parents, their suburban home and its décor, the food her mother prepares, etc. What is funny about Emily's family? Does she feel trapped by who her parents are? Does it seem that Emily regresses when she is around her family? Do most people tend to do so?

14. Her sister Heather is angry with her for revealing her pregnancy on the same night that Heather was planning to introduce her fiancé to her parents. Is Emily wrong in choosing this moment? What is Emily planning, or thinking, about her future at this point?

15. In what ways is the ending surprising? How disturbing is the idea that Emily is now completely on her own, and will soon be a single mother? What is the significance of Emily's visit to Jupiter's Palace of Cheese, first described on page 59?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2008

    Good Book but....

    I enjoyed this book until the ending. Thoughout the entire book, I felt like I was inside the main character's head. Which I love! I was invested in the main character and wanted to know more. The ending left me disappointed. I know it was meant to be 'symbolic' but, I am not that deep. I didn't get it! I wanted to know, 'What happened next!!!!' I would love a sequel!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2007

    A reviewer

    The plot moved quickly- there was never a boring moment in this book, never a passage or chapter to 'slog through' in order to get back to the action- I didn't want to put it down because I could never find a stopping place! Fox does an outstanding job of unapologetically revealing so many of those unspoken truths about relationships and marriage- her honesty and candor brought this book and all her characters to life.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Not bad

    I picked this book up on the premise that it was going to be light reading, but it definitely had more drama to it, which was all right. I did like the characters and I thought they were finely done. The author is clever and I laughed sometimes at the conversations that were played out in the book. The only thing was I thought the ending was hurriedly done, and I was disappointed by it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2008

    Short and sweet

    The idea of this book is unusual: Our heroine has everything she could ask for perfect husband, security, faithfulness, etc. So what is the problem? HE wants to move to the suburbs and have a baby. Talk about the proverbial shoe on the other foot. Also, at the same time the wife in the picture meets a handsome and carefree editor. She admits she's married but that doesn't stop the affair. The end result is a mess, but happily, Fox has written so well that the situation comes off.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2007

    Not bad for her first novel...

    I kept waiting for soemthing to happen and when it did, it lacked drama. It just 'happened'. The ending left alot to be desired.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2013

    Great new voice on the literary scene. I enjoyed the characters,

    Great new voice on the literary scene. I enjoyed the characters, the tension, and the book kept me up until I turned the last page.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2012

    It was pretty dark and depressing

    It was pretty dark and depressing

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  • Posted March 28, 2012


    This is a great read, I was hoping it was a light vacation novel, but it's not. It's warm and yet very real. The characters are developed in a great pace to provide a good bond with the readers.

    I enjoyed this novel so much I immediately went and picked up FRIENDS LIKE US.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2012

    not great - started out cute and funny, then got depressing. an

    not great - started out cute and funny, then got depressing. and, then just ended abruptly. characters are not very likable and are not well-developed.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2012

    Good read

    I enjoyed this book so much, but the ending was disappointing! I would've given it 5 stars if it weren't for the ending.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews

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