Summary: Eve is eight months pregnant and in the middle of a Thanksgiving celebration when she discovers that her husband Jonathan has developed an intimate relationship with a woman over the past year. Jonathan asserts his innocence (an affair involves physical intimacy, and he didn't have any), while Eve feels deeply betrayed by the emotional connection he shared with someone else. What Jon has done seems so terrifyingly out of character that Eve finds herself questioning her entire reality. Did she ever really know Jon at all? Was their happiness together a lie? Is emotional intimacy more forgivable than sexual intimacy? And can their marriage survive? -- 5 Spot
A huge thanks goes out to Miriam from Hachette Book Group USA for sending me a copy of LOVE AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS by Holly Shumas. I really, really liked this novel about an eight month pregnant woman who discovers that her husband is emotionally involved with another woman. While I thought the book was going to be a standard chick lit type of book, I was pleasantly surprised by how deep the story was and how much it made me think. I actually had a hard time putting this book down because I got so caught up in Eve's story and had to find out how she ultimately resolved the situation.
For some reason, I could really relate to this story! No, I didn't catch my husband with another woman when I was eight months pregnant; however, the story was kind of like a pregnant woman's worst nightmare. I think almost every pregnant woman feels a little insecure about herself (especially around the seventh/eight month when you feel huge and still seem like you're going to be pregnant forever.) But I can absolutely tell you that my feelings towards Eve's situation were definitely more intense because I can clearly imagine how betrayed she felt at that point in her life.
Even though my feelings definitely went out to Eve and her horrific situation, that doesn't mean that I totally related to her. There were times during this story that I wanted to hit Eve upside the head -- I found her behavior at times to be very frustrating, stupid, etc. Now I don't know exactly how I would have reacted in a similar situation, but I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have made some of the same decisions she did. While I did get mad at Eve (a lot), I found that her emotions and erratic behavior made the character very real to me (and the story very readable.)
One thing that I loved about this book was Ms. Shumas' decision to make the affair an emotional one rather than a physical one. It definitely muddied the waters and made me think. Was it truly infidelity, is it reason enough to end a marriage, etc.? Things suddenly aren't as clear cut when the affair is an emotional one (especially when there are kids involved.)
While I personally consider Jonathan's indiscretion to be cheating, it definitely is something that individuals will interpret differently. I think that most women consider it cheating, while most men will probably say it isn't. Eve found the emotional attachment of the affair to be as devastating, if not more so, than a physical one. Women tend to value the emotional part of relationships over the physical ones. Eve's husband, Jon, thought he was being punished (unjustly) because he never followed through with his feelings! It all makes for a very interesting story; and I found all of these male/female dynamics to be fascinating.
I wasn't familiar with author Holly Shumas before reading LOVE AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS; however, I now consider myself a big fan of her writing. (I have a copy of Ms. Shumas' first novel FIVE THINGS I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT in my TBR pile, and I can't wait to read it.) Ms. Shumas is a practicing marriage and family therapist, and I think it's evident in this novel that she is familiar with the emotional aspects of affairs. I found this novel to be very engaging as well as easy to read, but I was even more impressed with Ms. Shumas' ability to create such well-developed characters, especially Eve. Even if I did want to shake Eve a time or two, her feelings and actions did seem very realistic to me.
I highly recommend reading LOVE AND NATURAL DISASTERS, especially if you are a mother. I also think that book clubs would thoroughly enjoy reading and talking about this novel. It's not my club's normal fare, but I know we'd have so much to discuss. Take a look at the reading guide, and you'll see that there are some very thought-provoking discussion questions. I'm sure that many groups will have a very spirited debated about the emotional versus physical affair issues. I'd also be interested to hear what my friends think about Eve, her behavior, and her ultimate decision.
Does LOVE AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS sound like a book that you would enjoy? If so, please leave a comment (with your e-mail address) telling me whether you consider an "emotional affair" to be cheating. One lucky, random reader will win a copy of this book! The giveaway will be open until Friday, January 30th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will announce the winner on the following day. This contest is open to those of you with United States mailing addresses only (no P.O. boxes, please.) Good luck!
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