The Perfect Marriage – Book Review

The Perfect MarriageThe Perfect Marriage by Kimberla The Score by Kiki Swinson
Narrator: Shay Moore
Length: 5 hours and 13 minutes
Release Date: January 1, 2013
African American Fiction | Christian Fiction | Women’s Fiction |

This review is going to start with a story to illustrate how I felt about The Perfect Marriage by Kimberla Lawson Roby. I could do the review without the story but… anyways.

You’re walking down the street returning home from a hards day work and pass by a neighborhood bakery. You once purchased a cupcake from the bakery and while it wasn’t the best cupcake of your life, it had promise. In the window you spot a small pretty cake and decide to buy it. You had a hard day and you deserve cake. You tell the clerk you want the cake in the window and she informs you it’s chocolate. Chocolate is not your favorite but you have made up your mind you want the chocolate cake you spotted in the window. You get home, make dinner and leave just enough room in your stomach to enjoy a healthy size of the cake your purchased from the neighborhood bakery. You take a minute to admire the beauty of, the nice and even buttercream frosting (your favorite) and the simple swirls decorating the top and sides. Your mouth waters a little because you know this cake will be moist and delicious. You take your knife and cut. You fail to notice the first cut reveals the cake was a little dry, excitement clouded your eyes. After cutting your slice you gleefully shove a large forkful into your mouth. The cake is dry, dry enough to make you wonder how long ago it sat in the store. And you could’ve made a better tasting cake from a store brought cake mix.

That chocolate cake is The Perfect Marriage. A story with an interesting premise adorned with a pretty book cover. The inside dry and tasteless.

This is not my first encounter with Kimberla Lawson Roby. I read Best Friends Forever several months back. And while I didn’t give Best Friend Forever a stellar review, I saw promise in her writing. I wasn’t thrilled about reading another one of her books. But I thought audiobook format would make it more tolerable if The Perfect Marriage ended up being a bad apple. Besides, I had an audiobook credit to use and it’s only five hours. The opening was engaging and the narration good, I could do this. By the second or third chapter I realized something was “off”. I couldn’t figure what that something was at but I narrowed down causes to writing or narration. By chapter five, I realized a mix of writing and narration were at play, with the leading cause being the writing. The writing worse than in Best Friends Forever. In fact, if I hadn’t read Best Friend Forever I wouldn’t have believed Kimberla Lawson Roby could be a decent writer. And I suspected that Shay Moore was having a problem with reading the writing and it was translating into a poor listening experience. Moore’s reading was flat as if she didn’t feel the story was realistic (as the story progressed I understood why). The writing was emotionless which caused Moore put strange emphasis on words and sentence to evoke feelings that weren’t there. Moore’s emphasis got annoying halfway through the audiobook. The dialogue was unnatural even though Moore did a good job of giving each character a unique voice (even if overly dramatic at times). Shay Moore sounded as if she was having a hard time trying to force herself to finish narrating The Perfect Marriage. And I had a hard time trying to force myself to finish listening to it.

One of the main issues with The Perfect Marriage is the story didn’t deliver on anything. I couldn’t find anything to enjoy after five hours of listening. Not even the characters, Denise and Derek Shaw. They were cardboard even though they both seemed to have interesting background stories, they lacked dimensions. Denise reminded me of the main character in Best Friend Forever. In fact, they could’ve been interchanged without a problem. Same character different story, the same thing is true of the Mackenzie, the couples teenage daughter. Derek was unique but he was weak and his actions seemed to conflict greatly with his background story. I didn’t see how Lawson Roby made the leap from his background story to him being a drug addict without a greater personal struggle. I might have understood Denise’s addiction if as much time was spent in exploring her backstory as there was for Derek’s. Instead, Denise’s inner demons seemed to be thrown in at the end as an afterthought.

On the subject of afterthoughts, there were important details about the couple and their past were thrown in towards the book. Details that would’ve explained a lot of things more clearly if flushed out and integrated into the story. Like details of their lifestyle while on drugs. Until about the last forty-five minutes of the story readers believe the Shaws blew their money by simply using drugs together in the privacy of their home. That is until Lawson Roby casually mentions they hosted and attended drug parties with “new friends”, friends that were also never mentioned. I suppose some of these details where skipped because this is Christian Fiction. But the author had no problem going into details about how the drugs were used and how they made Denise feel. I don’t see how describing a drug party would have been worse.

Added to the fact that important things where throw in as afterthought there was also a lot of repetition. I lost count of how many times there was mentions of Denise and Derek six figures salaries and high level demanding jobs. There were repeated reminders that Denise grow up in a wealthy household and Derek was the child of drug addicts. It was like the author was trying to pound these details into the readers head when it was unnecessary. Some of wasted space could’ve been used to add in more details and to make the characters and story more believable.

Just like chocolate cake not being my preferred choice, neither is Christian Fiction. I have read a few Christian Fiction books in my past. And though my experience of the genre is limited, I wondered what made The Perfect Marriage Christian Fiction. The Shaws weren’t avid church goers and only mentioned going to church once in the “Oh, I haven’t done that in awhile” sort of way. The only other mentions where passing reference when they hit a rough patch and made it through. At the end there was a brief mention of them switching to a “bible based church” but that was it. Maybe my expectations of Christian Fiction doesn’t match the genre norms because I am not frequent reader but I was expecting a return to Christ moment and there was none.

The Perfect Marriage started with a promising premises but just didn’t deliver when it came to the actual story and making readers care.

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