A “Perfect” Marriage is Tested in Sophie Kinsella’s Surprise Me

Surprise Me is a new feel-good romance from Sophie Kinsella that touches on themes perfect for the new year: renewal, second chances, and remembering what’s most important in a chaotic, materialistic world.

Sylvie and Dan have been together for a decade, and they’re happier than ever…or so they think. When a visit to the family doctor and a great health report card makes them realize they could be spending the next seven decades together, the quirky couple has a bit of a breakdown: it turns out happily ever after is an intimidatingly long time, and they’re terrified that their marriage has already failed before it, in the scheme of things, has even really taken flight. How will they keep up their sex life? Are they doomed to a life of picking up after their twins and petty arguments about taking money from Sylvie’s parents? Are their jobs satisfying enough…and what will retirement look like, if it’s twenty years long?

All of these questions cause our heroine, Sylvie, to lose her grip in this caustically funny story of miscommunication and marriage revival attempts that go awry. She decides to make a deal with Dan that they surprise one another more…but of course, surprises are a double-edged sword, and when Sylvie finds herself getting surprised by more than just sexy escapades with the husband she thought she could trust—that perhaps Dan has real, possibly marriage-ending secrets he’s tried to protect throughout their life together—she wonders whether their relationship has been real all along, or just another unsatisfying surprise.

Kinsella is at her best writing quirky, relatable women with self-aware, non-pretentious prose. Sylvie and Dan are a likable couple, and we believe their happiness at the start of the novel is genuine, even if it’s a little too perfect: they finish one another’s sentences, which is certainly a romantic notion, but definitely underscores a central part of Sylvie’s journey throughout the novel, which is that her marriage can only survive if she finds her own voice. Through her often misguided endeavors to “save” her already great marriage, Sylvie realizes there are things in her past—from her deeply flawed relationship with her wealthy and influential father, whom she revered, to Dan’s discomfort and her complacency with a job that doesn’t give her emotional satisfaction and checks her ambition—that she must save herself from in order to live a happy life. And of course, when family drama is unearthed from the past, all of Sylvie and Dan’s plans for fun and spontaneity go out the door, and they must fight to save the marriage they never thought would be in jeopardy.

Life is a constant surprise, but the best one of all is finding a supportive, loving partner to share it with.

Surprise Me is on B&N bookshelves now.

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