Review: Last Couple Standing by Matthew Norman

41781197. sy475 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.

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: NetGalley and Ballantine          Rating: 2½/5 stars

Jessica and Mitch are the last couple standing among their original group of four.  Known as the Core Four, the group has known one another and been a group since college.  With the pairings and marriages coming so naturally, no one, especially the Core Four ever thought there would come a time when they would be something other than together. 

Life and adulting suck  . . . .

Yes, life and adulting have a tendency to suck and a harsh result of the suckiness is Jessica and Mitch being the last couple standing.  They have seen their friends fall apart, their marriages end, and their lives radically changed and it, quite frankly, scares the hell out of Jessica.  Though Jessica and Mitch have no serious issues in their marriage, Jessica proposes a radical experiment, a sort of preemptive strike to keep their solid marriage from going the way of their friends.  To Jessica’s way of thinking, if they get out ahead of the problem then there won’t ever be a problem and she and Mitch can go about their lives and live to tell the tale of their happily ever after.

According to Jessica, each of their friends’ lives and marriages fell apart because of sex.  With Mitch in agreement, Jessica proposes she and Mitch stray from their marriage and vows and have sex with other people in an effort to ultimately strengthen their own bond.  In order to be fair, they set a series of guideline that will dictate the terms of the experiment and should not be violated by any party.  According to Jessica, once the experiment is completed, she and Mitch will be stronger than ever and proof positive that some marriages are meant to go the distance.

Though Mitch agrees to Jessica’s madness and even contributes his own thoughts to the rules/guidelines, he isn’t as certain as his wife is that this experiment even needs to take place. Mitch is happy in his life, he loves his wife, and their family is damn-near perfect.  While having a free pass to sleep with other women sounds awesome on its face, the reality is far different than the fantasy.  Mitch not only struggles with the idea of sleeping with someone other than Jessica, he actively works to avoid participating in the madness.  Jessica, on the other hand takes her free pass and runs with it, right into the arms and bed of a sexy young bartender who desperately wants more than Jessica is prepared to give.  The ultimate result of the experiment is a very public display of lunacy which results in a small car wreck, one swift kick to the balls, and everyone, including their young children, knowing their business. 

The Bottom Line: Oh, how I struggled with this book and it all comes down to one character, Jessica!  I found Jessica to be a tremendously selfish, arrogant, and rather stupid woman.  Rather than simply admitting her fears to her husband – a very understanding and accommodating Mitch! – Jessica concocts a ridiculous plan that will allow her to screw some young guy with zero guilt and/or consequences.  This whole mess boils down to Jessica wanting to have sex with someone other than her husband and her selfishness threatens to destroy a solid and remarkably good marriage.  Jessica wraps her plan in logical and psychobabble as a means of justifying her actions and, in an effort to support his wife and continue to make her happy, Mitch agrees to the madness.  As the whole plan unfolds, Jessica’s selfishness becomes magnified and she becomes harder and harder and harder to like.  On the flip side, Mitch is a rockstar and I wanted nothing but the best for he and his kids, even if it meant keeping Jessica and not kicking her sorry ass to the curb.  At the end of the day, I can’t say I liked or even enjoyed this book.  One bad character really can ruin a book and Jessica is a fine example of this.  Finally, I don’t at all understand how this book is billed as “hilarious” and/or “heartfelt.”  I found it to be frustrating, ridiculous, and the furthest thing from either hilarious or heartfelt.  This is a novel of pettiness and selfish behavior that ultimately ends up nearly destroying something that is, in actuality, quite good.

Releasing March 17, 2020: Goodreads| Amazon| B&N | Kobo| Hardcover

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