Sustaining a happy and healthy marriage over a lifetime is difficult under any circumstance, but add in some challenges such as Hendrick, a 6-year-old child on the autism spectrum, and a husband who keeps starting — but not finishing — home improvement projects and someone’s bound to crack.
In This Is Just Exactly Like You, author Drew Perry introduces us to the fictional Lang family, and it is Beth Lang who decides she needs a break from it all — from her husband, Jack, her son Hen, and the ever-improving home, so she moves out. She doesn’t ever seem to be saying that she’s ending the marriage, but instead continues to maintain that she just “needs a break.” That break takes her to Jack’s best friend’s house. This part seemed quite unbelievable at first, that Beth would move in with Terry Canavan, and that Jack wouldn’t completely lose his cool over it. He’s fighting for his marriage on the inside, but on the outside he’s trying to give her the space she needs and biding time as he hopes for her return.
When Rena, Canavan’s former live-in girlfriend, visits Jack to discuss the situation, things start to get really weird. Could these two couples who used to hang out simply swap partners? The story is told from Jack’s point of view, so we don’t really get to know Beth and Canavan very well, but Rena is there for Jack as a good friend (with benefits), and we see how she helps him come to terms with his feelings.
Because Jack doesn’t hate Beth, we don’t hate her either. We get to know her through Jack’s thoughts that drift back through their marriage. I especially appreciated all those private jokes or expressions or nicknames that married people share.
This book deals with a serious subject, but it’s quirky and funny while still respecting the gravity of the situation. The entire cast is well-developed, and the author Drew Perry is able to use these stereotypical characters without going cliche. The voice of Hendrick (when he speaks) is sweet and clear, and we are able to sense Jack’s love for him along with the equally-real frustration. These people aren’t caricatures, they are real people with real pains and survival instincts.
This Is Just Exactly Like You took me a little while to appreciate. In the first few chapters, it seemed a little crude and out-there (As I said, I wasn’t really buying the premise), but then it quickly became very dear to me. This is not your typical “suburban satire” novel, but is instead a heartwarming and quirky (yes, somewhat unbelievable) portrait of parenthood, marriage, friendship, and middle class.
My video book review includes an excerpt of the kind of writing that made me connect with the characters so easily:
This giveaway is closed.
If this is the kind of novel you enjoy, please leave a comment here. We have one copy of This Is Just Exactly Like You to give away (U.S. only).
Jennifer Donovan has been married for 18 years. She nor her husband have ever knocked out a kitchen wall, but she can relate to the everyday frustrations and joys of marriage and parenting. She blogs at Snapshot.