“The Marriage Pact” by Michelle Richmond

Cover of titular book, featuring two rings and few strands of a torn, red scarf-life material slightly threaded through them; background: sea-green, perhaps?Book: “The Marriage Pact” by Michelle Richmond
Published by Bantam on 25th July, 2017
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Psychological thriller, Suspense, Thriller
Format: ARC paperback, 414 pages
Rating: 5/5⭐
Source: Goodreads giveaway
Goodreads

Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.

The goal of The Pact seems simple—to keep marriages happy and intact—and most of its rules make sense: always answer the phone when your spouse calls, exchange thoughtful gifts monthly, plan a trip together once per quarter…

Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, and their widening social circle of like-minded couples.

And then one of them breaks the rules.

The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life—and The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule.

For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

I’m not sure whether I first joined the giveaway for this added The Marriage Pact to my to-read shelf on Goodreads, but my thought when joining was, “If I win, I’ll obviously read it. If not, I may not ever get around to reading it.”

Film rights have been optioned off to 20th Century Fox—rare is it that I read a book before it makes it to a motion production, so I’m quite glad to have been able to read this!

Seldom is it that I also rate something all of five stars, so without spoilers, allow me to explain how uh-may-zing this book was:

Captivating—it’s a drug.

You can quote me on that. I lost sleep over this book, because I couldn’t put it down. I had to pry myself away to eat, use the toilet, and shower. I read it in 2.5 days, a new personal record for books of this page count.

Told from first-person point-of-view through the husband, Jake, we experience everything in present and past tense.

I got a little confused in the beginning, because the first chapter was the “future” when it probably should’ve been a prologue, but the story eventually panned out. I have an advanced copy, which I’ve come to learn may not be fully edited, so I’ll let that shiz slide.~

I enjoyed reading his memory recalls of him and Alice’s relationship. He kept saying this thing — how the people we want to be is not necessarily who we put forth, and so sometimes we do things we’d not do if we were thinking clearly (not verbatim) — and I liked it because of how true it is, but even more because sometimes epiphanies need to hit us on repeat until they sign a lease in our brains and remain their for good.

Alice was a complex character. He loved her for it. He called it “having multitudes”. She was unpredictable, and just when I thought I’d had her sorted out, I didn’t. She was messy and unpredictable, and I loved it most of all because clearly these two things aren’t deterrents (and they give me a little hope). 😅

But one of the things I really dislike in a lot of female characters these days is how weak they are — weak, in that they are shallow and haven’t much depth; they can be broken through to in an instant, even through their morals and standards — and I’m always so annoyed, because it’s boring and unrealistic and wishy-washy and lazy and lacking and inhuman.

So I enjoyed it. The Pact community is a lot like that of a cult, and there is even a moment wherein Jake is promoted to contemplate it; sometimes it’s hard to read, because the punishments for breaking the rules are intense.

In many ways, it reminded me of what I’ve read and watched about scientology. In other ways, it made me wonder if The Pact is like what would happen if conservative Christians clinging to their conventional values “ran the world”, as I often feel they’d refer to do instead of cohabiting with all the other neighbors.

It was definitely different.

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Jessica’s gravatar

I believe that I have this book on my To Read shelf as well. I wish that they allowed you to organize within the shelves…but anyhow, I’m pretty sure that I want to read this even more now. I have it on order from my local library – here’s hoping it doesn’t take forever to arrive. 🙂

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Liz’s gravatar

You should be able to organize your shelves! 😊 On your shelves page, there should be an edit button on the column before the list of your shelves—click that, and you should be able to edit every shelf. 😉

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Jessica’s gravatar

Just got done reading this book…will let you know my thoughts if you’d like?

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Liz’s gravatar
Jessica’s gravatar

First of all, I’m going to get this out of the way – I don’t believe that they made the right decision at the end. My reasoning for this is that both of them have seen what those in control of The Pact were capable of, and at the beginning, it seemed as if he was remembering Alice. I feel that only one of them survived the walk through the desert.

As for The Pact being similar to Scientology, I have to admit that there are somethings that also made me think that. However, Scientology does do a bit more brainwashing and they are happy to accept children. The Pact didn’t seem too keen on the idea of children…as they distracted from their main goal, keeping marriages intact.

Do I think that some of the rules/regulations set up by The Pact were wrong? No…I think that the idea of getting a gift for your SO regularly is a great idea, as it makes you think about them as a person and what they would like. I also think that always answering when they call is important as well – my reasoning for this is that it may be something minor such as to please pick up milk on the way home, or it could be something major such as their parent has fallen ill and they need a bit of support. However, there were a few that put up major red flags for me – the main one being that you couldn’t be seen with someone of the opposite sex…IDK about you, but I have several male friends that I’d be devastated if I couldn’t see or speak with them again. I also agree that the punishments for the rules were a bit severe.

I think the biggest lesson I learned, or rather it was reinforced by The Marriage Pact, is to read everything before you sign it. Research it completely – although now that I think of it, IDK if it would’ve worked?

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Liz’s gravatar

So…I don’t know how much the advanced reader’s copy (ARC) differs from the published book—I haven’t read it yet, but if I get to a point where reading the complete version is a viable possibility, then I will. So I don’t know whether the beginning and ending are the same, but I suppose the whole “Remembering Alice” theory makes sense—it’s the dessert, so it becomes a battle of the strongest. Cliffhanger endings are meant to provoke thought and theories far an wide, and here it seems to work well because the reader needed time to think and contemplate what just happened, then consider all the consequences coming together.

I understand Scientology accepts children—hence why The Pact reminded me of it. I also said it made me ponder what could happen if conservative Christians clung to their conventional values and stuck them to everyone—if they became radicals, per se. All books have a heart story, and dystopias especially can be construed as metaphors for real life issues, specifically political ones. It’s one of the reasons writing novel stories and reading novels fascinates me like it does. It was more an observation. Scientology may allow kids, but they also decide who its members may marry—marrying outside of the system is forbidden, and they have a prison similar to what was described of The Pact’s. Both represent cult-like behavior, and of all the cults I have studied, this one feels most like Scientology.

But how, if it’s required, is it genuine? To me, if something is required, it’s not genuine and doesn’t hold real value. If a significant other felt obligated to get me something because a stupid rule book told them they had to or else they’d be punished, it would hold less value and thoughtfulness because it would have been forced—not because they wanted to get me something. Things are taken to the extreme with The Pact’s rules, even “always answering”, because unless you’re being kidnapped or about to be murdered, most phone calls can wait. The regulations remove consideration for how everything in the world is situational—there are always other factors needing to be weighed in. Phone calls can’t always be answered right away, even if it’s minor…and if it is minor, that’s why voice mails exist—or text messaging, even. The utmost major phones calls that could ever require answering right away are such major things on the level of abduction or murder, or some other dire emergency. If we take away the power of such a phone call, all calls become “major” and “utterly important”, and such things as emergencies are minimized.

The Pact romanticizes things—that’s what all cults do, even if they’ve a specific set of criteria for the program. Something such as The Pact couldn’t be searched, because you can’t talk about it. It was hinted at by one of the youth group kids Jake counseled, at least in the ARC.

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