Frank and April Wheeler first crossed paths at a party in New York City, when their hearts were young and running free.
|Events directly preceding their first meeting.|
April didn't have any particular direction in life, and neither did Frank. But they shared at least two things: debilitating baggage from the separate failings of their parents and the central goal of being more fabulous than anyone else in the history of ever.
Their romance was whirlwindy, and then they got married because it seemed like a fun activity for a weekday. But with one catalyzing event, their lives started getting less and less fabulous.
"Wasn't it true, then, that everything in his life from that point on had been a succession of things he hadn't really wanted to do? Taking a hopelessly dull job to prove he could be as responsible as any other family man, moving to an overpriced, genteel apartment to prove his mature belief in the fundamentals of orderliness and good health, having another child to prove that the first one hadn't been a mistake, buying a house in the country because that was the next logical step and he had to prove himself capable of taking it. Proving, proving; and for no other reason than that he was married to a woman who had somehow managed to put him forever on the defensive, who loved him when he was nice, who lived according to what she happened to feel like doing and who might at any time---this was the hell of it---who might at any time of day or night just happen to feel like leaving him. It was as ludicrous and as simple as that." (p. 53)They never resigned themselves to the life they were living. They were constantly expecting to transcend circumstances they deemed unworthy of their self-conceptions, constantly at odds with each other and their home and work and friends and coworkers . . . and, most tragically, with their role as parents.
For the first 20 pages, I marginally identified with Frank and April. My husband and I are frolicking through a nontraditional life in a nontraditional neighborhood in a nontraditional city. At this point, neither of us would go quietly into an office job or the suburbs. But that's where the comparison ends, I hope . . . because I LOATHED these people. They are probably the most shamelessly selfish characters I've encountered in literature, and not just April and Frank; EVERY SINGLE character is competing to be the most self-involved, and they're ALL WINNING. And that's kind of the point. Well, it's ONE of the points. There are an astonishing number of points (without being preachy, I promise).
Now watch as I wantonly compare this book to other things: In terms of themes, I can trace major parallels to Blue Valentine, and at least a few to American Psycho. You'll have to figure out what those parallels are. Think of it as a very sad Easter-egg hunt. Find an egg; take an antidepressant.
|Kitty self-medicates after learning the American Dream is a lie.|