Title: The Daylight Marriage
Author: Heidi Pitlor
No. of Pages: 256
Origins: Algonquin Books
Release Date: 5 May 2015
“Hannah was the kind of woman who turned heads. Tall and graceful, naturally pretty, often impulsive, always spirited, the upper class girl who picked, of all men, Lovell-the introverted climate scientist, the practical one who thought he could change the world if he could just get everyone to listen to reason. After a magical honeymoon they settled in the suburbs to raise their two children. But over the years, Lovell and Hannah’s conversations have become charged with resentments and unspoken desires. She’s become withdrawn and directionless. His work affords him a convenient distraction. The children can sense the tension, which they’ve learned to mostly ignore. Until, after one explosive argument, Hannah vanishes. And Lovell, for the first time, is forced to examine the trajectory of his marriage through the lens of memory-and the eyes of his children. As he tries to piece together what happened to his wife-and to their lives together-readers follow Hannah through that single day when the smallest of decisions takes her to places she never intended to go.”
Thoughts on the Novel: The Daylight Marriage is the type of novel that keeps readers guessing. Hannah’s fate remains nebulous until the very end, and the constant predicting and hoping keep a reader emotionally invested in Hannah’s and Lovell’s story. The back and forth between Lovell’s internal reflections of his wife and his marriage versus Hannah’s actions that fateful day remain intriguing. More importantly, the story shows how one small decision can change one’s life forever.
In a situation in which the two partners are at obvious odds with each other, it is easy to side with one person over another. In The Daylight Marriage, however, Ms. Pitlor manages to make both Lovell and Hannah equally guilty and innocent in the downward spiral of their marriage. Both are extremely flawed, and both contribute to their problems. One is no more guilty than the other, and this feels exactly right because as with anything in a relationship, both are at fault for the events leading up to Hannah’s disappearance. To pit one against the other or to lead readers to pick sides would be to change the story and not for the better. Ms. Pitlor balances the line quite nicely and in turn makes the story about something more than someone being innocent or guilty.
While The Daylight Marriage is not about guilt or innocence of any one character, it is about marriage. It sheds light on this institution in which two strangers meet and get to know one another enough to want to share a life with each other. It highlights the fact that one’s spouse will always be somewhat of a stranger because it is impossible to know everything any one person has ever thought, felt, or experienced in the course of one’s life. The Daylight Marriage is not disavowing the idea of marriage or the act itself, but it does highlight how difficult it is for two people to come together and make this long-term situation work. Lovell and Hannah struggle just like every other married couple, but their fights take on more significance in light of Hannah’s sudden disappearance. This is the truly interesting dynamic at play throughout the story.
One last curious element of The Daylight Marriage is that at no point in time is a reader ever in doubt of Lovell’s complete innocence. This is not a story of a husband victimizing his wife or an unreliable narrator telling a highly edited version of a story. Ms. Pitlor establishes this fact early in the novel, and by doing so removes all traces of speculation. In turn, this allows readers to focus on what truly happened and on Lovell’s self-reflection. This also emphasizes the importance of the question of what went wrong that both Lovell and Hannah contemplate.
While there is an ominous tone to The Daylight Marriage, it is a quiet little novel full of deep thoughts and even deeper regrets. It is the culmination of a relationship gone south but one that has not yet reached the point of no recovery. Lovell and Hannah have their problems, but underneath their anger and frustration is that same love they had on their magical honeymoon. That it takes Hannah’s disappearance for both of them to realize this is the true tragedy of the story. Common marital advice includes never going to bed angry with each other and never taking each other for granted. The Daylight Marriage is a great reminder of why that advice is sound.
I just finished the book and like to read what others thought. Yours is a great review, you captured the book perfectly.
I grabbed a copy of this at ALA and now you have me excited to find it and read it. Great review.
Yay! I hope you enjoy it!
I was intrigued by this book and had requested it on Netgalley. I was even approved, but when I tried to download it on my e-reader, it didn’t work. So maybe that’s why there haven’t been that many reviews of it.
I’m pleased you enjoyed it – it sounds like quite a nuanced examination of marriage, rather than an obvious thrillerish one.
I hate when that happens! I also hope you get a chance to read it. I expected a thriller and got something much more thought-provoking.
I think your review is the first I’ve read of this book, which I had noticed and wanted to read. And may I say that I find the cover very interesting. The upside-down flower – maybe it is symbolic and maybe not, but if I were going to say what it made me feel, I’d say ‘marriage takes watering just like a cut flower’. You have to feed it and tend it. OK, that’s about all the deep thoughts I have for this morning. LOL
I haven’t seen this one around on the Internet all that much. I’m a bit surprised at that. There is a lot here to love, and I know of more than a few people who would jump at some of its themes.
You got much more philosophical with the cover than I did. All I did was go, “Interesting. I wonder why the flower is in the water and not the cut stem. Oh well. Time to read!”