Vow: A Memoir of Marriage (and Other Affairs)by Wendy Plump
There are so many ways to find out. From a cell phone. From a bank statement. From some weird supermarket encounter. One morning in early January 2005, Wendy Plump's friend came to tell her that her husband was having an affair. It was not a shock. Actually, it explained a lot. But what Wendy was not prepared for was the revelation that her husband also had another
There are so many ways to find out. From a cell phone. From a bank statement. From some weird supermarket encounter. One morning in early January 2005, Wendy Plump's friend came to tell her that her husband was having an affair. It was not a shock. Actually, it explained a lot. But what Wendy was not prepared for was the revelation that her husband also had another child, living within a mile of their family home.
Monogamy is one of the most important of the many vows we make in our marriages. Yet it is a rare spouse who does not face some level of temptation in their married life. The discovery of her husband's affair followed betrayals of Wendy's own, earlier in the marriage. The revelations of those infidelities had tested their relationship, but for Wendy, it was commitment-the sticking with it-that mattered most, and when her sons were born, she knew family had to come first. But with another woman and another family in the picture, she lost all sense of certainty.
In Vow, Wendy Plump boldly walks one relationship's fault lines, exploring infidelity from the perspective of both betrayer and betrayed. Moving fluidly from the intimate to the near-universal, she considers the patterns of adultery, the ebb and flow of passion, the undeniable allure of the illicit, the lovers and the lies. Frank, intelligent and important, Vow will forever alter your understanding of fidelity, and the meaning of the promises we make to those we love.
“Vow is brilliant from both a literary and a psychological perspective. It certainly takes emotional honesty to write with such candor about the drama and allure of one's personal adulterous experiences, but this book is more that simply honest -- it is also searingly well told. A tremendous achievement.” Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love and Committed
“Crack open Vow and prepare to be quickly carried away by Plump's vivid prose, so-close-you-can-hear-it voice, and suspenseful storytelling skills. You'll find yourself sneaking a page or two in the elevator, during a walk from point A to B, and trying to avoid drifting off to sleep so you can turn one more page... A thought-provoking, compelling read. The events, which Plump describes with amazing clarity and detail, are by turns gut-wrenching and addictive...The fact that such events are 'unimaginable' is one reason that I think every woman should read this memoir.” Redbook
“[A] jaw-droppingly frank but ultimately instructive post-mortem on [Plump’s] 18-year marriage…While literature has always taken adultery as one of its great themes...nonfiction books on the subject tend to be sanctimonious accounts of political or celebrity scandals... In addition to being strikingly well-written, what separates Vow from most personal accounts of adultery is Plump's forthrightness about her less-than-chaste record as a wife. It's rare to see infidelity portrayed in the round from the perspective of both betrayer and betrayed…[A] gutsy, intelligent examination of vows and the tantalizing allure of the illicit.” NPR.org
“[Plump's] memoir is like a conversation with a super-smart pal.” Ladies Home Journal
“Plump gradually reveals the degree of self-deception [these] two married people practiced over many years, as mismatched needs and gnawing mistrust fed their mutual appetite for risk, sex, and guilt... Plump manages in this frank memoir to fully capture her life --[as a] woman, wife, and mother who leaves nothing unexamined and has nothing left to lose.” Publishers Weekly
“Metaphors and similes and original descriptions can't defend the reader against the sheer pain of broken vows. Wendy Plump creates a beautifully wrought word painting from which I, for one, came away with a new slant on ‘marital vows.' Couples should read this book--and then write their own.” Carly Simon
“Vow is so tender and sharp….This book is a real gift.” Elizabeth Weil, author of No Cheating, No Dying
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
- Bloomsbury USA
- Publication date:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Read an Excerpt
A MEMOIR OF MARRIAGE (AND OTHER AFFAIRS)
By WENDY PLUMP
BLOOMSBURYCopyright © 2013 Wendy Plump
All rights reserved.
From a friend. From the cell phone. From a neighbor. From e-mails left on the computer. From hotel receipts. From a homemade sex video tragically left out in the open. From the bank account. From the dog sitter. From the nanny. Especially if it is the nanny. From the spouse. From the lover. From an offhand comment on the playground. From the monthly expenses that don't jibe with anything you did or received or gave. From the cashier at the lumberyard. From some weird supermarket encounter. From your mother, whose antennae have been tuned to this frequency much longer than you realize. From the accumulation of doubt. From walking in on them in the office. From walking in on them in the bedroom. From walking in on them.
So many ways to find out. So many ways.
Four months before I found out my husband was having an affair, a school in the North Caucasus in Russia was stormed by Chechnyan separatists, and over three days eleven hundred hostages were taken, including eight hundred schoolchildren. It ended badly—even, I imagine, for those who got away with their lives.
The Beslan hostage crisis still pierces my awareness many years later because of the small, stubborn role it played in the unveiling of my husband's last affair. The events were unrelated and on two different sides of the world, but they are conjoined in my memory of them. Details fall into the crevices between life-altering knowledge and your reaction to it. These details take on their own significance by filling up the space between, adding buffer and firewall and salt indeed to the whole mess of finding out.
A friend came over one morning in early January 2005 because she thought it was time to tell me about Bill. My two sons were at elementary school. It had been snowing hard for two days, almost canceling school and a party the previous weekend during which our friends hotly debated the merits of marriage. I recall announcing to the dinner table with stupid conviction, "Even if I thought it was the best idea, I would never get a divorce." I have always been a fool in the court of conspicuous declaration. I remember once telling someone in eighth grade that I would never smoke pot, never have sex before marriage, never sneak out of my bedroom window in pursuit of a guy. I was a holy horror of sanctimony. Within five years I had done all of those things.
I wish I had had my wits about me more back then, and now. Things happened that I was oblivious to even as they were happening to me or because of me, including the folly of my own behavior. I knew nothing solid about myself as a young woman, right up to and possibly including yesterday.
When my friend came through the front door that morning in January—letting herself in without knocking because that is how we operate—I came out of my bedroom and looked down at her from the top of the staircase. She was agitated, out of sorts, as if she were holding herself upright against a heavy blast of wind. This was not hindsight. It was an instant telegraphing of something critical, something disturbing. Are you okay? was my first question. And her reply, pressed into my very veins: It's not me. It's you.
Here's where the Chechnyans came into it. I thought she was there to tell me that my sons' elementary school had been stormed by insurgents. This was partly ridiculous and partly terror, the wild but typical response of an overanxious parent. You are always in reconnaissance mode once your babies are on the ground. My oldest son was born one month after Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City. That horror and its attendant crowd of loss jump-started my mother-fear. The worst of the world's events are seared into my psyche more so than before I was a parent because tragedy echoes through my concern for my sons. That January morning, it took my friend several minutes to calm me down by repeating over and over, It's not the boys. It's not the boys. It's not the boys.
Until finally, and no doubt partly out of exasperation, she blurted out: It's Bill. He's having an affair.
This news fell into place with an almost audible click. Like a bullet revolving in its cylinder and lining up with the chamber. The violent image fits because it was a kind of violence that I lived with later on. But right then, right in that moment, what I most remember thinking is, This makes sense. It wasn't shock. It was relief that I felt. There were no Chechnyans at my sons' elementary school, where seconds before I had visualized them storming art class. That was not the case. What else was there to worry about?
There had been so many holes in our marriage over the preceding years. Late night movies that Bill attended apparently on his own. Claims that he had been driving around smoking a cigar—"Just thinking"—until late into the night. Evenings when I would find him alone outside, staring into the fields behind our house. I felt such a deep disconnect from him, a hum of disturbance not far below the surface of domestic routine. When I heard the news of his affair, the disconnect was blown away. The news explained a lot. Everything, really.
People are incredulous when I say that I did not suspect anything before this discovery. They think I must have been aware that Bill was having an affair, as if suspicion were linked to some primal instinct we all have. I have no idea what imperative suspicion would serve Neanderthals such that it would repeat upward through the species to find its expression in us. Would it make you more accomplished in sacking cavepeople? It seems unlikely that Java Man had the neural complexity to doubt. Doubt is a scourge of incipient sophistication. Life would be pleasanter without it.
In any case, this was not even remotely true. Despite a history of affairs on both our sides by that late point—my own affairs were earlier in the marriage, and Bill's affairs were later—it hadn't occurred to me that Bill was fooling around. One time I looked for his movie ticket stubs and duly found them. Once I wondered why he never let me borrow his cell phone. Once I asked him where he had been until two a.m. the night before. I always got answers that did not exactly satisfy, but that worked.
They worked because the explanations you most want to hear are also the easiest to deliver. They require so little evidence. One sentence will suffice, something short and offered up by your spouse with a surfeit of confidence. After which you can go on with the laundry or the homework or the purchase of cleaning products. There is a lot to do in a family.
The acceptance of a lame alibi is part of the larger web of complicity I share with my husband. I am aware of not having suspected. But I am also aware that I would not have wanted to suspect. At its worst, suspicion will eat you alive. At its least, it is a bore. It interferes with life itself. Each time I felt the edge of suspicion crowding me, I would ask, and he would answer. And I would exhale and take the answer in hand and go about my day. I did not suspect any more than that because that would have been inconvenient to all the things I wanted to do. Continuing my marriage being one of them.
So, again. When my friend said Bill was having an affair, everything made immediate sense. I did not doubt it. I knew I would feel like hell later on. But right at that moment, clarity, even of something terrible, was an odd but certain kind of rest.
The news did in fact go downhill from there.
At what point in my life did the concept of Finding Out take a continual turn for the worse? It used to be that Finding Out was a kind of gift. It's how you grew up, learned, started to pick your way along the more ragged edges of your experiences. When I was younger, I found out all manner of useful and happy things. I found out that my parents loved me. That my grandfather was a masterful storyteller. That dogs spun around three times before lying down.
I found out that the little box my parents brought home from New York City when I was ten held a kitten. That horses could in fact drink from a hose. That I could boss my little sister around, but just until she grew taller than me. That you could in fact sit in a tree during a thunderstorm and not get struck by lightning.
I found out there was fun to be had with the opposite sex in basements and in laundry rooms. That sex was strange and astonishingly good. That men actually do want to make you happy. I found out that Bill wanted to marry me. That honeymoons were precious. And that no matter how incompetent I felt as a mother, my infant sons preferred me to all others.
Somewhere along the way, though, Finding Out became a massive drag. Maybe this is what it is to be an adult, moving along the arc of your life's luck and misfortune and accumulating its downers. Now we Find Out about cancer, about infidelity, about a child's sickness, about a school shooting, about a neighbor diagnosed with leukemia, about an insurrection that leads to a war that leads to young soldiers dying. These were present when we were younger, but not so searingly. They were not about us. They happened in Scotland or Da Nang or Wisconsin. But as we age, the odds increase that we are standing on ground zero.
I imagine Bill would say the same thing, for he experienced shock and betrayal at my hands, too. How did he Find Out about me for the first time? I told him.
I had three affairs before I had children, early in my marriage—with Tommy, who came into my life through a girlfriend; then with Steven, whom I met on a marina dock in South Carolina; then with Terry, a local hunter who taught me how to practice archery. Each affair knocked into the next, like dominoes, and for a little while took down everything and everyone in the vicinity. Bill was anguished over the discoveries of them. And since they came one on the heels of another, I'm not sure how he slogged through it. He did not ever wish to discuss anything with me in great detail. He recovered without the trickle of dialogue. But he recovered. He stayed in the marriage, is my point.
In time, however, Bill would trump that history. He betrayed me with several women. But while those earlier discoveries were hard to bear, they weren't devastating to our marriage. Each time I found out about him, I wanted our marriage to survive and continue. I learned after each one to live with the realities of his affairs and then just went on. I would not have ended it under the earlier circumstances.
Finally, though, Bill had one of those affairs that shock the whole pond and change all the life forms in it. So that nothing could thrive there afterward. I know this to be true because we had experienced so many scenarios of adultery already. We were a full-horizon couple. We had a 360-degree view of infidelity. We knew it from every angle.
Now that I look back, I can see how much of my life's energy has gone toward infidelity, from both Bill's side and from my own, almost as if I were on a mission. To give in to it, to get past it, to understand it, to force its influence from our marriage. I am dismayed that this is one of the guiding patterns of my life. In the way that the ancient Silk Road is marked out across the planet from space—though you cannot see it from the ground—adultery has carved its own passage through my life, made most visible these days through perspective and distance. It looks like a blast corridor.
Mine is not a strict cautionary tale. It is one tale. Or one version of a tale. There are more versions, more stories, of infidelity out there than there are married people, since you tell the same story many times and change it according to mood and audience, editing for effect, both magnifying and playing down the details. It also reflects the experiences of just two adults, and one of them more than the other. It is a very specific story. I am not an expert in the subject apart from what happened with us. There are millions of different unions, and they all have their own DNA. This is ours, the story of our marriage and all the hopeful and misguided behaviors we brought to it. So while it reflects just one couple's union, it enters the stream of all marriages, weighting the whole institution with its lessons.
I can lay claim to this general truth, though: Of all the things there are to do on the planet, my husband and I picked one hell of a pastime. If we had it to do over again, I imagine the very same things would happen once more. Had we been able to change ourselves early enough to make a lasting difference, we probably would have done that already.
Bill and I met in college when we were nineteen and were married eight years later. We were barely a year into our marriage and had just moved into our first home in Pennsylvania when I met Tommy. I was ignorant when I married Bill. I assumed the gravity and laws of marriage—not to mention the love I felt for my husband—would be enough to prevent me from desiring anyone else. I was wrong about this.
By that point I had been in love twice: once with Tim, my boyfriend from high school, whose sweet relationship I carried with me into my freshman year at college; and then with Bill, who would become my husband in 1987. In love, I desired no one else. All the attraction, all the compulsion, all the hope for the future, went to one man. These seemed an effective demilitarized zone against temptation, and they are. They keep the enemies of the marriage at bay. But they weaken over the years without any siren going off to alert you to that fact. Their half-life ticks past silently. So I was thrown off balance when I first met Tommy and felt an attraction so compelling I no longer cared that I was married.
Like everything else, infidelity has its own learning curve. If you want, you can become proficient. You can stake out the signs of your vulnerability and indulge or ignore them depending on your moral position. But this was early in my marriage. No one close to me had experienced anything like it yet. There was no trusted ally to go to and ask, "What the hell is this feeling and why do I have it?" There was no playbook for temptation and its sudden, indisputable appearance in my life.
Tommy was the beautiful twin brother of my friend Sarah's fiancé. Sarah's brother-in-law-to-be. We met at a pub in Brandywine, Pennsylvania, amid a crush of people gathered to celebrate the couple. I recall meeting Sarah's fiancé and thinking, Oh my, an Errol Flynn look-alike; Sarah's done well for herself. Then I met his twin brother and thought, Oh my, another Errol Flynn look-alike. And this one I can in fact have. Tommy had a wicked white smile that flashed a message. It said, I want to take you home. It said, Forget your husband and come with me. It said, Of all the people in this town, I want you. I abandoned myself to the scene and to the man. We ended up later that night in some grassy field, drunk on vodka and crazy to get at each other.
Bill was traveling constantly in those days. Russia, China, London, meant weeks of being alone and unmonitored. For both of us. In the days before the ubiquity of cell phone use, not being reachable was a fair excuse. I was at Tommy's apartment often. I was not reachable. I should have been concentrating on our new house, our new jobs, our new dog, Rogue, who kept biting the neighbors. The early days of domesticity should have a wide-eyed sweetness—where should we put the butter dish, how many pillows do you sleep with, why do you have six sticks of deodorant—but all of it was compromised by my affair. The first years of our marriage carried a blight, and I had smuggled it in.
A few months into it, the stress of the affair with Tommy actually started to hurt physically. I felt as though I had dysentery. At home I was anxious and ill at ease. At Tommy's apartment I was passionate but distracted. At work I was bitchy and unfocused. The fear that I would be found out was all-consuming. I wanted to put an end to it.
I don't know that Bill was noticing the same gaps I would notice years later, those absences created around adultery when you are not where you say you are. His endless travel made both of our deceptions easier, but you can't always have an alibi or your life starts sounding like someone's billable hours: "I was at work and then I went out for coffee with a whole bunch of people and then I stopped at the gas station and then I bought dog food and then I stopped to buy you your favorite brand of cookies. Oreos. Double. You believe me, right?" Sound overly earnest and you will draw the wolves of suspicion out of the woods.
Lies are easy to forget, too. Or, put another way, it's easy to forget what you made up in the thick of the moment to cover your absence. After a few days you can't recall if you said you were out with Jean or out with Jean and Babs, or out with Sarah and her fiancé or if you were just at the movies by yourself. Or with Jean and Sarah at the movies. Or with your sister. Or what movie you had seen. Or you were supposed to meet someone who bailed so you never actually saw the movie. You were driving around smoking a cigar—"Just thinking"—until late into the night.
It becomes too much to keep track of unless you plan on scribbling everything down in your infidelity ledger. I would build just enough truth into my excuses that they would be easier for me to remember. I would say where I had been but not precisely whom I had been with. Or I would use the phrase "a whole bunch of people." This Bill came to hate. It was a red flag for him even before he knew why. This is easy to understand. Any spouse who is even half-awake would prick up his ears at such defiant nonspecificity.
One night I came home from that bar in Brandywine where I had been with Tommy and a whole bunch of people. It was three a.m. This was Pennsylvania, not Rio. Nothing was open that late. So being out until that hour was a blazing flare shot into the night sky, illuminating the situation vividly.
Excerpted from VOW by WENDY PLUMP. Copyright © 2013 by Wendy Plump. Excerpted by permission of BLOOMSBURY.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Wendy Plump has been a newspaper and magazine reporter for over twenty years. She has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and New Jersey Monthly Magazine and has won several New Jersey Press Association Awards. She lives in Pennsylvania with her sons.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
I love this book.
Vow: A Memoir of Marriage (and Other Affairs) by Wendy Plump Vow by Wendy Plump Review posted by anarodfranco Title of book: Vow: A Memoir of Marriage (and Other Affairs) Author: Wendy Plump Paperback: Advance Reading Copy Pages: 261 Book Cover: Fit the novel perfect.(My opinion.) Language: English Published February 12th 2013 by Bloomsbury USA Genre: Memoir ISBN-13: 9781608198238 The ARC copy of "The Vow" I received in a contest from good reads Provided from Laura Keefe Marketing Director for Bloomsbury Publishing. "Thank You." ~SUMMARY~ (Good reads Wendy Plump's friend came to tell her that her husband was having an affair. It was not a shock. Actually, it explained a lot. But what Wendy was not prepared for was the revelation that her husband also had another child, living within a mile of their family home. Monogamy is one of the most important of the many vows we make in our marriages. Yet it is a rare spouse who does not face some level of temptation in their married life. The discovery of her husband's affair followed betrayals of Wendy's own, earlier in the marriage. The revelations of those infidelities had tested their relationship, but for Wendy, it was commitment--the sticking with it--that mattered most, and when her sons were born, she knew family had to come first. But with another woman and another family in the picture, she lost all sense of certainty. In Vow, Wendy Plump boldly walks one relationship's fault lines, exploring infidelity from the perspective of both betrayer and betrayed. Moving fluidly from the intimate to the near-universal, she considers the patterns of adultery, the ebb and flow of passion, the undeniable allure of the illicit, the lovers and the lies. Frank, intelligent and important, Vow will forever alter your understanding of fidelity, and the meaning of the promises we make to those we love. ~My Review.~ Vow: A Memoir of Marriage (and Other Affairs) Author: Wendy Plump This novel is about Wendy Plump that is married to Bill and have two son's. Wendy is the narrator in this novel. Wendy takes us on her journey of her marriage to Bill. They met in college when they were nineteen and married eight years later. A friend coming over one morning thought it was best to tell Wendy about Bill's affair. As Wendy looks back and pieces things together, It all falls into place. Wendy couldn't figure out Things that Bill had done at times, now it made perfect sense To Wendy. The holes in their marriage were Wendy sensed things weren't right.. Now did. One day when she was cooking dinner Bill walked in and looked at her saying he'd just had dinner with another woman. Bill explained he'd made a new friend and that nothing happened. The following week when Bill left out of town for a business meeting, Wendy went through the house for any kind of proof of any of Bill's affairs. All the alibi's Bill told her. The late night movies Bill been to on his own, times he claimed to drive around "Just thinking", so he say's . One day Wendy finds Bill's diary in the clothset confirming names and of many of his infidelities. Finding more evidence around the house like, credit card receipts for "gentlemen's clubs", and American express statements. Wendy confronts Bill. Bill is forgiven. Wendy confessed to Bill that she also had her own affair's. Bill already knew of one in the beginning of there marriage and forgave Wendy. Later on Wendy finds out of many more affair's and a child she didn't know about. Wendy starts her own affairs and that's how most of their marriage goes. Wendy was shattered that her husband lusted for another woman many of them. Wendy tries to think on why she'd had affair's and tries to figure out were their marriage went wrong. The affairs they both had in their marriage. All the excuses, lovers, lies, they both committed. One day Wendy and Bill agreed to seek in marriage counseling to try and repair their broken marriage. In one of their sessions Bill was pissed and ended walking out of the office. Bill didn't like to hear that Wendy had betrayed him, just as much as Bill done to her. This novel was a roller coaster ride for them both. And I enjoyed the ride. The vow is a great book that I enjoyed reading and that I wasn't able to put down. A wife's worst nightmare and Wendy lived it. Wendy Plump was able to write and share her story with us. I think that was very brave on her part. To re-live heart break must have been tough and very emotional, I hope by doing this Wendy got closure. I honestly could say from reading this novel that every women should read this novel. You'll be glad you did.
Book started off okay but it should have ended after 50 pages. It was extremely repetitive and you quickly start to dispise both the author and her husband. I finally just stopped reading.
Starts out real juicy but gets old fast. The author spends most of our time potificting and rationalizing and there's not enough of a "story" to back it up. Boring and misguided.
Incredibly insightful, unflinchingly honest, heartbreakingly real
Please be my friend i realy need one