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Mating for Life: A Novel Paperback – July 1, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Helen Sear, a feminist folksinger who was famous in the late 1960s, actively disdained marriage, raising her three daughters—all with different fathers—on her own. Now that the sisters are grown, each struggles mightily with relationships. Liane, the youngest, is in love but isn’t sure she can handle the role of being “step” anything to her boyfriend’s daughters. Middle daughter Ilsa is contemplating leaving her second husband and two young children behind to pursue her art. Stay-at-home mom Fiona, the eldest, seems to be the one who has life wrapped up all nice and neat, until her husband drops a bombshell. Added to the mix is Helen herself, who has fallen in love with a man who wants a traditional relationship—meaning marriage. She is giving it serious consideration, much to the consternation of her daughters. Stapley alternates the narrative among the characters, including two peripheral women, and interweaves events from each woman’s life. There are a few too many characters and subplots, but this novel does a fine job of exploring the complexities of modern relationships. --Rebecca Vnuk


"Told from multiple points of view as the characters walk tightropes of tragedy, this intriguing and heartbreaking debut novel carefully illustrates the power that each of us has to define who we are and who we can become." (Publishers Weekly)

"An absorbing and entertaining meditation on romantic love, but, even more so, on the nature of motherhood and sisterhood." (Maclean's)

“Heartbreaking and strikingly honest. Stapley challenges entrenched ideas of what it means to be a wife and mother, explores how modern women often struggle to maintain their own identities in the face of societal expectations, [and] excels at bringing the reader into the lives of these women.” (Quill & Quire)

“No, this is not a happily-ever-after tale. Nevertheless, Stapley is gentle and nonjudgmental with her characters, and readers…will find themselves pulling for them all.” (Kirkus)

"This novel does a fine job of exploring the complexities of modern relationships.” (Booklist)

"A beautiful and honest story." (Working Mother)

“The women in Mating for Life are clever, honest, funny, and forever analytical as they stumble through the search for love. Each new chapter brings a wise and tender look at single life, dating rituals, and marital unease. This is one of the most charming novels I’ve read in years, and I loved every last page.” (Jennifer Close bestselling author of Girls in White Dresses)

"Marissa Stapley makes a brilliant debut with Mating for Life. This intricate story of mothers and daughters, of family secrets and the devastation of infidelity, works an irresistible spell as it shatters apart three sisters' lives and then gathers the pieces together again, one by one. Acute and richly moving, Mating for Life triumphantly reaffirms the power of female relationships." (Beatriz Williams New York Times bestselling author of A Hundred Summers)

"Heartwarming and insightful, Marissa Stapley's unmissable debut is a sensitive, timely and compassionate exploration of family, friendship, self-discovery and the issue perhaps more at the crux of modern womanhood than any other - the struggle to keep hold of who you are while letting love in." (Abigail Tarttelin author of Golden Boy)

"An absolute feat of storytelling, Mating For Life not only features sisters, friends, mothers and confidants – it feels like one itself; a living, whispering, shouting, beauty of a book that bypasses easy answers and cracks open the deepest, most contradictory longings in all of us. Stapley is an heir to the likes of Wolitzer and Atwood, with an eye that misses nothing in the way we love, hurt, leave, support and sabotage each other and ourselves. This is vital and vibrant writing born of true insight into the human heart." (Grace O'Connell bestselling author of Magnified World)

“Marissa Stapley searches through the layers women possess, how hard we work to hide the cracks, as we bury our secrets, pretend what’s bad is good—and paper over the glaring flaws in our lives. In Mating for Life a mythologized fiery mother—and the daughters she grew up alongside—all face the realization that it’s time to live with eyes wide open. Stapley renders their awakening with grace and honesty.” (Randy Susan Meyers bestselling author of The Comfort of Lies)

"Honest and tender, heartbreaking and irresistible, Marissa Stapley’s Mating for Life is a gorgeous debut in which I saw myself, my sister, and every woman I adore. An absolute must read for every woman who has ever been swelled, or felled, by love." (Tish Cohen bestselling author of The Truth About Delilah Blue)

"Mating for Life is an immensely readable novel, with smart, engaging characters who come to life on the page -- the sort of characters you miss long after you've put the book down. You will see yourself in these women." (Taylor Jenkins Reid author of Forever, Interrupted)

"An addictive, enthralling read, full of authentic, hopeful characters, each on a quest for their own version of true love. They seek it in family, friendship, partners and, ultimately, in themselves. I fell in love with the entire cast of characters Stapley has created, whose stories weave together beautifully and whose voices are so genuine, flawed and unique. They made me laugh, curse out loud and cry! This is an impressive, ambitious debut novel about love, forgiveness and acceptance which will undoubtedly warm your heart." (Hannah Tunnicliffe author of The Colour of Tea)

"I felt like I was sitting on the dock at a cottage, eavesdropping on the neighbours. Mating for Life is like overhearing all the juiciest family drama—without any fear of hearing your own name. I found myself slipping away at every spare moment to turn the next page. Marissa Stapley has created an interconnected story of unique, believable, relatable women. I absolutely loved this book." (Chantel Guertin bestselling author of Stuck in Downward Dog)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press (July 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476762023
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476762029
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,973,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm a National Magazine Award nominated writer and former magazine editor whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, National Post, Elle Canada, and many others. Mating for Life (Atria Books; Simon & Schuster Canada) is my first novel. When I'm not writing, I'm reading. (In fact, I never go anywhere without a book. Except maybe swimming.) Some of my favourite authors are Meg Wolitzer, Julia Glass, Alice Munro, John Irving, Lauren Groff, Margaret Atwood and James Salter. I live in Toronto with my husband and two children, where I teach writing, and am working on another novel.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Running 'N' Reading on September 18, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Each of the sisters in this pleasurable debut novel has, in one way or another, attempted to distance themselves from their self-described "feminist," " former flower-child" mother, whom they only refer to by her first name, Helen. The novel begins from the perspective of Liane, the youngest of the three, during a stay at a secluded family cabin in an attempt to jumpstart her motivation to complete a graduate thesis.

In this chapter, and subsequent chapters, readers learn more and more about the hidden, unspoken needs of each of these women and the role their mother has played in allowing them to become who they are; however, in their quest to distance themselves from that influence, they also discover how much they need their mother, as well as each other, in their respective lives.

Liane, Ilsa and Fiona, along with their mother Helen, are all struggling through life, yet attempting to hide behind the image they have created for self-preservation and security; together, they begin to help each other unravel their individual truths and become closer - just in time. These four women exemplify what it means to be in relationship - the good, the bad and the ugly - and show us why, in the end, it's all worth it.

I enjoyed every page of this novel and was impressed with the way the narrative, while separated by each individual character's perspective, seemed to flow together so well and create an pleasantly emotional, comical and powerful example of the importance of meaningful relationships. Mating for Life by Marissa Stapley is a great read that appeals to a wide audience and I would definitely recommend it; I've already promised my copy to a friend who is interested after hearing me discuss it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nashvilleash on September 10, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I liked the format of this book. Each chapter was from the view point of a different character. You even had the viewpoint of some of the minor characters from the book. You heard from the main characters in three different parts. I think this helped you sympathize with what the character was going through. Like in real life, if you do not know or experience exactly what that person is going through, then you do not have an accurate picture of the person's struggles or happiness. Everyone has projections of what someone is going through, even the characters of this book have projections about other characters, but they are not accurate. I loved that about Mating for Life. You learned so much more than if the story was told from one point of view!

Anyways, let's get on to the bones of the book! This story centers around Helen (a former folk singer) and her three daughters Liane, Ilsa and Fiona. Helen was never one to be about commitment and because of this it has affected each of her daughters differently. Fiona, who values truth and stability without drama, is about to find out something her husband has kept from her for awhile. The order that she is accustomed to is no longer present. She has to find a way to get it back, with or without her husband. Isla who is on her second marriage is being tempted to not stay faithful in her marriage. She is trying to figure out if she can not give in or live a lie. Liane has finally met someone wonderful but she does not know what to do if the magic and happiness of her relationship are not there anymore. She is letting that fear seep into her relationship and then in turn making it difficult to still have magic in it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Allison on July 10, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Chances are, if a book references old school Barenaked Ladies in the first few pages, I am going to like the book. Granted, Mating for Life by Marissa Stapley is the first book this has happened with, but it sets a good precedent for future reads because the book is wonderful. Mating for Life is is a story  about the trials of marriage and the bonds between women, namely between the free-spirited Helen and her daughters (Isla, Fiona, and Liane) and between the sisters themselves. Told through alternating perspectives, the story follows each of the women as they navigate their own marriages (or lack of one) and relationships with each other.

For Fiona, marriage has been wonderful, or at least it was until her husband unleashed a secret that makes her question everything about him. Isla, on the other hand, is coping with an overworked husband in ways that will likely backfire. Meanwhile, Liane is having trouble figuring out exactly what love looks like, and her free-spirited, never-married mother isn’t much help. As each woman keeps secrets from the others in the family, Mating for Life explores the underbelly of marriage in its rawest and truest form.

What Stapley does very well is to create characters that the reader is invested in. The issues that the women face are both serious and sometimes common issues faced in marriages, so even if the reader hasn’t experienced it firsthand, it’s easy to become emotionally invested in each of the women’s lives. Another neat thing that Stapley does, which goes along with the title, is to start each chapter off with a brief description of the mating habits of different animals. Not only are the tidbits interesting, but they connect with the story in a subtle and unexpected way. In other words, if you blink, you’ll miss it.
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