Wedding Toasts I'll Never Giveby Ada Calhoun
Poignant and witty essays on the beautiful complexity of marriage.Inspired by her wildly popular New York Times essay “The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give,” Ada Calhoun provides a funny (but not flip), smart (but not smug) take on the institution of marriage. Weaving intimate moments from her own married life with frank insight from experts, clergy,
Poignant and witty essays on the beautiful complexity of marriage.Inspired by her wildly popular New York Times essay “The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give,” Ada Calhoun provides a funny (but not flip), smart (but not smug) take on the institution of marriage. Weaving intimate moments from her own married life with frank insight from experts, clergy, and friends, she upends expectations of total marital bliss to present a realisticbut ultimately optimisticportrait of what marriage is really like. There will be fights, there will be existential angst, there may even be affairs; sometimes you’ll look at the person you love and feel nothing but rage. Despite it all, Calhoun contends, staying married is easy: just don’t get divorced.Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give offers bracing straight talk to the newly married and honors those who have weathered the storm. This exploration of modern marriage is at once wise and entertaining, a work of unexpected candor and literary grace.
Ushering in the arrival of the spring wedding season, two writers, both usually identified with other topics, offer their insights into what keeps the marriage machinery running. Novelist Piazza (The Knockoff) recounts the first year of her marriage to a man she knew for less than a year. With her parents' own rocky relationship as her only guide to married life, and the challenges the union faced early on owing to the revelation of a potentially devastating medical diagnosis, Piazza sets off on a worldwide odyssey in search of advice about how to be married. She seeks guidance from sources ranging from observant Jewish women in Israel to members of polygamous communities in Kenya with several stops in between (including tense discussions with chic French women). Her takeaways include timeless advice (keep talking to each other), along with updated adages (maybe it is okay to go to sleep angry, especially if you are tired). Piazza's insistence on maintaining her independence—even on the dance floor—despite having become a "wife," lends this account an uplifting tone.Calhoun's (St. Marks Is Dead) foray into the world of marital musing began with her oft-shared 2015 New York Times "Modern Love" column, "The Wedding Toast I'll Never Give," a pithy summation of the realities of marriage from the point of view of a veteran member of the institution. Calhoun, whose own marriage to a performance artist is in its second decade, expands upon her original piece in this series of graceful essays that explore the significance of marriage in a time that no longer deems marriage a necessity. Alternating between hilarious personal anecdote and sobering professional insight, this memoir conveys perhaps the simplest lesson ever given about learning to make a marriage last: just don't get divorced. Her other great contribution to the literature on marital happiness might be her explanation of why fights in cars are the worst: you cannot storm off. VERDICT Piazza and Calhoun approach the conundrum of connubial happiness from differing (albeit white, heterosexual) vantage points, but with the same endpoint of golden anniversaries in mind.—Thérèse Purcell Nielsen, Huntington P.L., NY
True love never runs smooth according to these essays, which could pass as a memoir of the author's own marriage.Calhoun made her well-received debut with St. Marks Is Dead (2015), an impressive volume of journalistic research that blended the historical with the personal. This is a slighter work, though not the sort that rock critics would call a sophomore slump. Title aside, this will resonate most strongly not with those about to get married but with those who have been married awhile, even happily so, but who deal with the sort of struggles and tensions that all married couples do. After a fight with her husband, when Calhoun asked her mother the key to staying married, she received the reply: " ‘You don't get divorced.' At the time, I thought her response flip, but now I consider it wise." A long-married woman told her, " ‘the first twenty years are the hardest'….At the time I thought she was joking. She was not." Having yet to hit the 20-year mark in a marriage that appears stable, the author approaches her subject not as the voice of wisdom and experience but as someone in the same trenches who can comfort her married readers that they are not alone. She still feels (and occasionally submits to) strong attractions to the opposite gender, and she resents it when her husband does as well. When she writes of a book-tour encounter, "we'd made out, but not too much—unless you think that anything when you're married to someone else is too much, in which case this was definitely way too much," readers may wonder about Calhoun's maturity. But she's engaging and all-too-human, chronicling the strains of being together, being apart, sharing a rental car, screwing up finances, raising a son, and somehow staying together in spite of (and maybe because of) it all. Calhoun ends with a toast that she actually would give, and it's wise and lovely.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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- 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)
Meet the Author
Journalist Ada Calhoun is the author of St. Marks Is Dead, named one of the best books of the year by the Boston Globe, Kirkus, and the Village Voice. She has written essays and criticism for the New York Times, including one of its most-read stories of 2015, Modern Love essay "The Wedding Toast I'll Never Give".