A couple determined not to end up like their divorced friends try a radical experiment—and get in way over their heads—in this hilarious, heartfelt novel from the author of We’re All Damaged.
New York Post’s Best Books to Read in Our Age of Social Isolation • “[Matthew] Norman’s funny and feeling writing makes for an irresistible read.”—Esquire (Best Books of 2020)
The Core Four have been friends since college: four men, four women, four couples. They got married around the same time, had kids around the same time, and now, fifteen years later, they’ve started getting divorced around the same time, too. With three of the Core Four unions crumbling to dust around them, Jessica and Mitch Butler take a long, hard look at their own marriage. Can it be saved? Or is divorce, like some fortysomething zombie virus, simply inescapable?
To maximize their chance at immunity, Jessica and Mitch try something radical. Their friends’ divorces mostly had to do with sex—having it, not having it, wanting to have it with other people—so they decide to relax a few things. Terms are discussed, conditions are made, and together the Butlers embark on the great experiment of taking their otherwise happy, functional marriage and breaking some very serious rules.
Jessica and Mitch are convinced they’ve hit upon the next evolution of marriage. But as lines are crossed and hot bartenders pursued, they each start to wonder if they’ve made a huge mistake. What follows is sexy, fun, painful, messy, and completely surprising to them both. Because sometimes doing something bad is the only way to get to the heart of what’s really good.
In Norman's funny and heartwarming novel (following We're All Damaged), a Baltimore couple tries to head off the demise of their marriage with an unusual arrangement. Therapist Jessica Butler and her high school English teacher husband, Mitch, have been married for 15 years and have two kids. Recently, their closest friends have all split. Jessica and Mitch are determined it's not going to happen to them, but things have been a bit stale, and they decide that a few "dalliances" outside the marriage might liven things up, with caveats such as no hooking up with social media friends and no more than one jaunt with the same person. Jessica wastes no time setting up a date with hot bartender Ryan, even as Mitch struggles to make a connection. As they both try to make the experiment work, with mixed results, it inevitably clashes with their jobs, kids, and most importantly, reality. Readers will have to suspend disbelief a bit to make this premise work, and a few scenarios, especially the climactic scene, veer close to farce. Still, Norman skillfully uses his gift for gentle humor to prod at the foibles and joys of marriage, parenthood, and love in this endearing charmer.