- 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: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,959,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mating for Life: A Novel Paperback – July 1, 2014
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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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Top customer reviews
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. Helen is also struggling with the fact that she has found someone she wants to be with, but feels like marriage is just too much of a commitment. She wants to just be happy about the fact that they are together. I will not tell you how any of these relationships turn out (read or buy the book!), but I will tell you it is like real life: some work out with work and some can never be salvaged once the damage is done.
Each of the characters had their own unique voice. Some of the stories were heartbreaking to read, but you learned something from each of them. They were so well written that you really cared about what happened to them. I liked that it felt realistic too. Not everyone gets what they want out of life, but most people try. This also showed that some of the worst things have the best outcomes. This book showed that you should treasure and appreciate people and the bonds that you have with them. Helen realizes some of the things that she failed to do as a parent, but at the time that they happened, she thought she was doing the right thing. She never thought that her independence would come back to hurt her girls or herself. Fiona learns that just because things are not perfect that her life is bad. Isla learns to find her own voice again with her painting and to find what makes her happy. Liane learns to just be happy in the moment and love what you have around you. Those are all great lessons that most people probably learn at some point in your life. The when is usually is what is different. Is it too late to cherish someone or can you truly be happy with your life? What makes one person happy does not necessarily mean it will make someone you know happy as well. Marissa has a great book under her belt and I can't wait to see more from her! What an awesome and thought provoking book!
*I received my copy from NetGalley.com in exchange for an honest review.
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. Lastly, I love that the family lake house is an integral part of the book. Like Hannah Richell (reviews here), Stapley incorporates a physical location that is equally as important as the characters even though it is a seemingly minor part of the book.
The only minor complaint I have about the book is that there were a few solitary chapters told by peripheral characters, and while I see the value of their stories, there may have been a better way to incorporate them. In fact, I could see one of the secondary storylines becoming a book all on its own (when you read the book, you’ll know who I am talking about. In the end, however, each character had an important role to play and the book would not have been complete without them.
If you enjoy alternating storytellers or books about the lives of women (without being light or romanc-y), then Mating for Life is a good one to pick up. When you do, be prepared to see a bit of yourself and/or your friends in it, because it touches on some of the universal aspects of women’s relationships.