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HomeNewsArchivesThe Bookworm Asks: What's Better, What's Worse?

The Bookworm Asks: What's Better, What's Worse?

“The Perfect Marriage” by Kimberla Lawson Roby
c.2013, Grand Central Publishing $19.99 / $21.99 Canada 192 pages

Once upon a time, you promised to love for better or for worse. And so, through sickness and health, you tried your best in your marriage. Whether you were richer one day and poorer the other, you loved fiercely, honored often and obeyed your heart.

Maybe that worked. Maybe it didn’t. Maybe you got the relationship you dreamed about, but in the new novel, “The Perfect Marriage” by Kimberla Lawson Roby, desires outside this household are stronger than the ones inside it.

Denise Shaw had everything she’d ever wanted. She had a very-well-paying job she loved. Her adoring, handsome husband, Derrek, who’d come from a broken home with shaky roots, also had a great job with a fat salary. They had a beautiful home, fancy cars, good money saved and a wonderful, smart daughter who was the light of their lives.

Yes, things were stressful sometimes. Life was hectic. Yes, she and Derrek used cocaine, but it was no big deal. It was just a harmless little now-and-then pick-me-up.

Derrek, on the other hand, thought they needed to stop getting high.

When he was a child, Derrek’s parents were addicted to crack and the drugs became more important than their twin sons. Derrek and his brother were raised by their grandparents, which was the best thing that ever happened to Derrek. Dixon, however, had become an addict like his parents and he was always asking for money.

Over time that destroyed the brothers’ relationship; in fact, Derrek hadn’t spoken to Dixon in three years. So when Dixon’s number kept popping up on caller ID, Derrek was annoyed and angry. He wasn’t about to give more cash to some deadbeat drug addict. Dixon was just no good.

But then Derrek learned that his brother wasn’t calling for money. He was calling to say goodbye because Dixon was terminally ill. And when he died just hours after the two patched things up, it sent Derrek deep into grief.

Instead of reaching for his wife for comfort, though, he reached for something powdery white…

Scan the first few pages in this book and you’ll know exactly what’s ahead. Even reading this review, you can probably tell. You know – but you can’t not look, which is a curious downfall for “The Perfect Marriage.”

The funny thing is that I couldn’t wait for this novel to end. It’s an uncomfortably squirmy book to read simply because we do know what’s coming, and Roby doesn’t make that discomfort any easier: her main characters seemed awfully uppity to me and I thought, without ruining the plot for you, that the actions of their “smart” daughter were pretty dumb. On one hand, that distastefulness heightens the experience of reading this story. On the other hand, that made me race to end it.

Overall this isn’t a bad book. It’s not great, either, but it’s worth a look-see. If you want a quick-to-read novel that’s not easy to read, grab “The Perfect Marriage” because you could do better or you could do worse.


The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books. Her self-syndicated book reviews appear in more than 260 newspapers.

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