Still Life with Husband
Lauren Fox
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Buy *Still Life with Husband* by Lauren Fox online

Still Life with Husband
Lauren Fox
320 pages
April 2008
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Be careful what you ask for, for you may indeed get it. At least that’s what happens to the heroine, Emily Ross, in Lauren Fox’s Still Life with Husband. And not only does she get it once, but twice.

Without placing judgment here, there are unfortunately quite a few women who are going to be able to relate to this story. It begins as an almost-fairy-tale (Ross meets her dream husband in college and settles down into domestic bliss), but at one point he’s the one wanting a house in the suburbs and children. Enter dread and fear of the future, and from Emily, no less. Also, enter an affair. I normally don’t like the term chick-lit, and while it could apply here, there’s a lot more depth and feeling in this book to label it that. At times I was reminded of Tom Perrotta’s Little Children, but Fox handles suburbia even more deftly than Perrotta does. This is no Desperate Housewives. No, this is a book full of timeless emotions and truth.

While Emily’s husband is a model of stability, that’s exactly the problem. He’s a technical writer, faithful, good-looking, and everything a woman could ask for. So what’s the problem? Emily feels dread at becoming just another suburban housewife and has what some might term a mid-life crisis, even though she’s not old enough. The object of her affections is a newspaper editor whom she meets at the local Starbucks (the only part of the novel I didn’t care for, since I don’t patronize that particular establishment and feel it’s been overworked in other books.) The editor and new love-toy—David Keller—and Emily are so busy gushing over each other that she forgets to mention she’s married. You’d think that might end the attraction, but it doesn’t and an affair begins, followed by the usual guilt and problems that arise in such situations.

Two things are disturbing to me about this novel: First, its popularity; that is to say, a book dealing with infidelity and how much people want to read about this. Wanting to know is fine, but my suspicions are that Fox has hit some literary nail on the head and there’s more of this going on than we’d like to believe.

Secondly, it rings awfully true, and I’m not insinuating that Fox has experienced this, but rather that she’s so adept at “taking notes,” if you will, that the story will cause you to glance more than once at your neighbors and friends to see if you can read the signs. Her ability to “see” is unnerving, to say the least. But that’s what you want in a good writer, and Fox is certainly that.

As far as the writing style goes, I can think of no better encapsulation than an excerpt which shows not only Fox’s “right on” take on life, but her keen sense of perception. It’s the same excerpt that appears on several review sites, but it is so telling that it must be included here:

In the middle of the night I don’t know who he is, this man lying next to me, his leg brushing against my leg, arm draped over my hip. And that’s when I want him. I keep my eyes closed and turn toward him, stroking him softly, fingers skimming over his chest, his thighs, feathery touches light enough to wake up just the parts that matter. He responds, and we both know what to do, how not to talk, not even to whisper, letting our bodies move together in the dark. This is a man I picked up in a bar; this is a man whose name I don’t know; this is searing, anonymous sex with a stranger, and I’m using all of my senses and none of my heart. He rolls on top of me, heavy and hard, not kissing, hot hands all over me. I grab a condom from my night table and hand it to him.

“Emily,” he whispers, crashing rudely into my dream, breaking the rules of 2:00 a.m. sex. “Please?”

“No,” I say, my eyes still closed, arching toward him now in spite of myself. “Shhh.” I know what he wants, and I’m not prepared to give it to him. “Baby,” he breathes, and I open my eyes to the face of my husband hovering over mine, earnest and needy, the man I have known since college, the man I share a bathroom with, the man who cried during Little Women, who thinks I don’t know that he plucks his nose hairs, who’s afraid of raisins because they remind him of mouse droppings. “Baby,” he whispers again, and I sigh, fully here now, fully awake and resigned to it. And this is how we finish, knowing everything about each other, completely together, naked and silent and half-satisfied in the middle of the night.
What is so brilliant about this passage and most of the book, is that were drawn into believing one thing, only to be shown something else entirely different—you might say, just as marriage and suburbia have drawn so many in, only to disappoint. This book is disturbing on many levels, but it is also quite true to form and excellently written. I highly recommend it to anyone, regardless of how they feel about infidelity, suburbia, marriage, or Starbucks.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Beatrice Kalinowski, 2008

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