In his third memoir, the hilarious and heartbreaking How to Stay Married: The Most Insane Love Story Ever Told, author Harrison Scott Key quips, “Men never talk about being betrayed. I want to. I feel I must. I have many deep convictions, and one of them is that suffering can and should be monetized.”
Key has done an excellent job thus far, with his debut The World’s Largest Man, winner of the 2016 Thurber Prize for American Humor, and 2018’s Congratulations, Who Are You Again? Fans know that his books are a potent mix of sharp, poignant and funny, thanks to the author’s penchant for openly talking about his baser instincts and his ability to take small, meaningful moments and extrapolate them out to large, cleverly expressed truths.
In How to Stay Married, an onslaught of truths began with a devastating 2017 revelation: Lauren, Key’s wife since 2002, had been having an affair for five years. Her affair partner, called “Chad” in the book, was a married neighbor with a family that often spent time with Key’s own. The shock was deep and destabilizing, sending the author on an urgent journey of discovery (When did it go wrong? How did he miss the signs? How will their three daughters react? Should he buy a truck?) and a deep exploration of his Christian faith.
With wit and anger, humility and warmth, Key chronicles the myriad ways he has strived to understand how a couple with a lovely origin story could have grown so far apart. A chapter called “The Little Lawn Boy Learns His ABCs” is a tour de force of alphabetized self-examination (and, sometimes, self-flagellation), and a chapter by Lauren called “A Whore in Church” offers plain-spoken insight into the pain of her past and her choices in the present.
As the couple worked to figure out, together and separately, what the future might hold, Key found himself wondering, “What if, in some cosmically weird way, escaping a hard marriage is not how you change? What if staying married is?” How to Stay Married makes a strong case for that approach to romantic partnership, while offering plentiful food for thought about faith, humor, courage and love.