From Publishers Weekly
Swiss author Stamm (Agnes) examines the complications of love and attraction in this captivating novel. Alex and his gorgeous and brilliant wife, Sonia, run an architecture firm and have a lovely daughter. It is the life he always thought he deserved, but during the fateful seventh year of marriage Alex scratches a familiar itch with Ivona, an old flame who is so tremendously plain and boring that Alex considers himself too good for her, and yet, for reasons inexplicable, his attraction to her runs hotter than it ever has for Sonia. His revulsion toward Ivona's fundamental underwhelmingness gets a lengthy—at times, tediously so—examination, as does the magnetism that pulls him to her and his own fiery self-hatred. Ego, passion, and deception run wild, but the novel's strength is found in the characters Stamm has created: powerfully imperfect, sometimes despicable, horribly conflicted, and always believable far beyond the archetypes that too often pop up in novels of marital ennui. (Mar.)
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Alex is trapped between two loves in this heartbreaking novel translated from the German. Living in Munich as an architecture student, he finds himself surprisingly ambivalent about his desires for the future and his goals in life. Just after graduation, he falls in love with two women. Sonia is gorgeous, prudent, and driven. His warm love of Sonia quickly turns into marriage and the start of their jointly owned architecture firm. Ivona, on the other hand, is ugly and taciturn, yet it is her boring air and puerile notions of love that set off a spark in Alex. He begins a long, tormented affair with Ivona that eventually leaves her pregnant. When Sonia, infertile but desperately wanting children, agrees to raise Ivona�s baby with Alex as their own, Alex believes he can end the affair and rectify his marriage. But tensions escalate, and financial hardship, along with long-endured emotional estrangement, threatens to collapse their world. This touching novel is a tour of what makes love work and what tears love apart in the modern world. --Julie Hunt