With quiet power, Bauer explores the isolation, betrayal, duty, and, finally, compassion that constitute an unhappy marriage. When Carmen Garrett’s husband, Jobe, dies, she finally feels the reprieve she’s spent her 21-year marriage waiting for. She and Jobe had been profoundly ill-suited: Jobe, a solemn and awkward math prodigy, had been intimidated by the potency of Carmen’s desires, while Carmen had been bound to Jobe by gratitude and obligation rather than love. Carmen—an unfaithful wife and the loving but resentful mother of three children—is an unlikely sympathetic figure, yet she is unsparingly, at times laceratingly, candid about her own shortcomings, and is disoriented by the loss she feels for a man she has spent her adult life wishing away. Only weeks after Jobe dies of lymphoma, Carmen is diagnosed with breast cancer, accepting the turn of events with the grim equanimity of a convict submitting to a death sentence. With lovely prose and fine pacing, Bauer (A Wild Ride Up the Cupboards) offers a sensitive portrait of a flawed woman coming to terms with a lifetime of regrets. Agent: Esmond Harmsworth, the Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Agency. (June)
A triumph of good writing.
Bauer expertly maps the ferocity and anguish of a parent's love . . . Exceptional storytelling.
Written in a contemporary style that evokes the work of Anne Tyler, this is not only a well-nuanced story of youthful mistakes and adult consequences but also an unflinching look at one woman's fight against breast cancer.
Summarizing the plot of this richly layered and nuanced story could leave an impression that it's grim. It isn't. The novel is infused with a sense of grace and redemption for characters Bauer makes us care about.
Compelling . . . Bauer and The Forever Marriage poignantly and powerfully illustrate the great and often tragic ironies of life . . . a perfect read.
Funny, surprising and gratifyingly honest, this novel poses unsparing questions about love and betrayal and the reasons we make the choices we do.
While in many ways a quiet story with a subtle arc, it is also an emotionally powerful page-turner—memorable and exquisitely written.
Many times Carmen Garrett almost left her husband, Jobe, a brilliant but rather passive professor of higher mathematics. An extremely sensual person, she married him knowing they had little sexual chemistry. Not long after their honeymoon, she became pregnant and gave birth to a Down syndrome child, Luca. Two more children follow, and Carmen struggles with the sense that she's living a "false happy life." When Jobe dies of cancer after 21 years of marriage, Carmen thinks she will finally feel free. But widowhood and single parenthood are more complicated than she'd expected. In many ways, Carmen misses Jobe. When her lover, reference librarian Danny, finds a lump in Carmen's breast, her own battle with cancer begins. A subplot involving Jobe's lifelong quest to solve a mathematical theorem adds variety to this highly emotional novel. VERDICT Bauer (A Wild Ride Up the Cupboards) deftly draws all the characters. Love or hate Carmen, readers won't soon forget the hot-blooded woman, and fans of Elizabeth Berg will want to meet her.—Keddy Ann Outlaw, formerly with Harris Cty. P.L., Houston, TX
Bauer's second novel (A Wild Ride Up the Cupboards, 2005) offers an introspective study of a woman as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Narcissistic Carmen Garrett is newly widowed. Married to her brilliant husband, Jobe, for more than 20 years, she has been waiting for him to die so that she can begin to live her life. She and Jobe meet when he is a graduate student in England, where she travels after the death of her mother. After returning to the United States, he invites Carmen to visit his family in Baltimore, and Carmen remains there as a guest of the Garretts, who also pay for her last year of college when she can't do so. Upon graduation--Jobe with his doctorate and Carmen with her bachelor's degree--the two marry. Although Carmen never loves the socially and physically awkward mathematician, their marriage produces three children. At the time of Jobe's death from leukemia, Luca, their Down Syndrome son, is 20 years old; highly intelligent Siena is 17 years old; and young Michael is 12. Carmen wants to help her children cope with the loss of their father, but she is relieved that she no longer has to live with the subterfuge of their marriage. She's not only wealthy from Jobe's life insurance, but she is free to continue her affair with Danny. But the diagnosis of her own life-threatening illness causes Carmen to closely examine the choices and the emotions that have shaped her marriage and her life. As she faces her own mortality, she must also face her past. At times dispassionate and self-absorbed and at other times emotional and selfless, Carmen follows a path of self-discovery that is often painful, poignant and undeniably real. Bauer crafts an insightful story that is uncomfortable and bleak, but well-written. It's a journey well worth taking.