By Ekta R. Garg
August 2, 2017
Release date: July 25, 2017
Rated: Bordering on Bypass it / 2.5 stars
A couple enter into a covenant with a mysterious organization that promises to help the newlyweds with their marriage. When members of the group begin putting pressure on the husband and wife to conform to the agreement’s stringent ways, they find themselves squirming under the intense scrutiny. Author Michelle Richmond manages to keep readers flipping pages through a novel that can’t stand up under closer examination in the breakneck-paced novel The Marriage Pact.
After living together for two years, Jake and Alice have finally decided to take the plunge. They’re getting married, and Jake can’t wait to start their life as a married couple. He loves Alice more than anything else, but they’re both feeling a bit of strain from their careers. Maybe getting married will offer them mini reset.
As a founding partner of a new psychology practice in San Francisco, Jake has spent a lot of time in the office. Alice has been burning hours as a new lawyer in a large firm. She wants to make a good impression at the firm, so when big-shot client Liam Finnegan visits the office Alice invites Finnegan and his wife to the wedding.
Finnegan sends Alice and Jake an unusual present that shows up on their doorstep days before the wedding with a note that states, “The Pact will never leave you.” The goal of the Pact and all Pact members is to uphold, support, and help develop marriage as a sacred union between two people. There are rules to follow, of course, but Jake and Alice don’t seem to take that part too seriously. All clubs seem to ask for some level of commitment from their members, right? How could the Pact be any different?
But it is different, which they find out the hard way. The leadership demands strict adherence to the Pact’s bylaws, including reading and memorizing its hefty manual. Alice seems to get on board with the entire concept, but Jake can’t help feeling a little frustrated by the entire venture. On the surface, the Pact preaches the very things he tells his marriage counseling clients. Inside the group, it’s another matter entirely. Before long Jake begins to wonder whether joining the Pact was a mistake, but regardless of what he thinks the Pact doesn’t seem quite so ready to let go of him and Alice.
Author Michelle Richmond manages to accomplish a puzzling feat: she writes a novel with a relentless pace that will make readers moving through the entire book, but the plot’s main turning points don’t stand up to closer analysis. Alice seems to have no problem accepting the Pact’s ways. Jake is more resistant to the Pact, especially when he discovers that an old college friend is also a Pact member but wants to get out.
The friend’s ambivalence about the Pact makes Jake suspicious, but at a key moment in the story he does what looks like an about face. In a follow-up scene, Alice reacts in a way that doesn’t keep in line with her character to that point in the novel. The rest of the book will certainly engage and maybe even shock readers, but the events that follow and the end don’t line up with the first part of the book.
At one point a character states that Jake and Alice are in a position to upend the entire Pact, but nothing in the story really explains how or why. In fact, in the larger narrative of what the Pact is trying to accomplish, Jake and Alice’s transgressions don’t come across as that egregious. It doesn’t make sense, then, why the Pact targets them in particular, and in hindsight all of Richmond’s devices to build up the suspense feel weak.
Readers who don’t mind a fast read without gravity may want to check this book out; otherwise, The Marriage Pact Borders on Bypassing it.