April 2010

An unlikely tale of love and marriage

By Laura Munson
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Where to start with Laura Munson’s wise, introspective and maddening memoir, in which she recalls the summer of her husband’s discontent? One moment you’re getting lost in her lovely meditations on the Montana life she and her husband have created with their two young children. The next, you’re ready to take an impromptu road trip to shake some sense into her yourself.

When Munson’s husband tells her he doesn’t love her anymore, her response is, “I don’t buy it.” She calmly vows to stand by while he works through whatever demons are causing the crisis. Take a walkabout in Australia, she suggests. Go to helicopter school. Build a “man cave” over the garage to escape to. Just don’t ruin the good thing we’ve built with our family.

As he stumbles through the summer, flitting in and out of their lives while he fishes, drinks and tries to find himself, Munson and her children have what she calls “a season of unlikely happiness.” She takes pleasure in cooking and setting off fireworks with the kids. And she feels like someone has her back: “Real live angels are showing up all around me like my grandparents and my father are piping them through some mystical realm, right into my life. . . . Even the way the grocery store checkout woman winked at me the other day felt like she was in on it. It’s like they’re saying: Follow your instincts. You are going to be okay, no matter what.”

Based on an essay she first wrote for the New York Times, Munson’s book has some very smart, insightful things to say about marriage, family and her choice to subscribe to what she calls “the end of suffering.” And yet . . . can you really embrace a philosophy that allows a husband to get away with some breathtakingly selfish behavior? Is that enlightened or just naïve? And does it matter if things work out in the end? Whatever your answers, This Is Not The Story You Think It Is will certainly leave you thinking.

Amy Scribner writes from Olympia, Washington.

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