The Secret Lives of Wives by Iris Krasnow

The Secret Lives of WivesThe Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married by Iris Krasnow
Published by Gotham, an imprint of Penguin
Review copy provided by the publisher

Journalist Iris Krasnow interviewed more than 200 married women for this inside look at what really keeps marriages together. The women in this book are incredibly diverse, but they each have one thing in common: they’ve stayed married to the same man for at least 15 years, most of them much longer. Along with their stories, Krasnow adds some insight of her own that she’s learned over the course of her own marriage.

I’m not sure what exactly I was thinking requesting this one from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer’s program several months back – maybe I thought it was a novel – but this book is definitely not something I would normally have picked up on my own. Either way, I eventually did read it and while I can see some value in the book and did enjoy parts of it, overall I’d have to say it wasn’t one of my favorite nonfiction books.

I probably shouldn’t have even read the book, honestly, because while I am married and plan to stick with my husband through the long haul, I feel like the book’s very premise excludes a lot of people. The book only applies to heterosexual couples, first of all, as there is no mention of a same-sex couple anywhere within the book. It excludes heterosexual couples who, for whatever reason, don’t want to get married. In fact, there’s even a couple in here who lived together for 15+ years before deciding to get married, as a testament to the fact that marriage is “better” than not being married because when they finally signed that piece of paper their relationship improved. The book alienates people who have gotten divorced, for any reason, but especially those who have ended marriages because of abuse and other similar valid reasons for getting a divorce.

I don’t want to be too negative, though, because I get it – I agree with Krasnow that couples these days can be too quick to throw in the towel, not determined enough to work on a relationship instead of giving up on it, and people a lot of times don’t truly believe that marriage is a forever commitment. I like that she found so many different women whose experiences run the gamut of what is possible to work through and grow from in a marriage. In fact, that’s what I really did enjoy about The Secret Lives of Wives – the testimonials were extremely interesting. I found it fascinating what some people do in marriages, what some people endure, what some people are willing to live with and what some people do when they come face-to-face with an actual deal breaker. Without these testimonials, there’s no way I would have finished this one.

I don’t know. While I enjoyed this book to a degree, overall I felt that it was pretty judgmental toward anyone who gets a divorce or chooses not to get married at all. And the fact that it completely excludes everyone from the GBLT population truly bothered me. I can’t really recommend this book, but if you are interested in getting a peek inside other people’s marriages, maybe give it a try.

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6 thoughts on “The Secret Lives of Wives by Iris Krasnow

  1. I would have also been peeved that the homosexual community was left out, as were the single women and divorcees. It seems like this would be a neat book to read for the testimonials only, and not for the actual smugness of the author’s opinion on the success of marriage. I am glad that your review was honest and off the cuff. I probably won’t be grabbing this one anytime soon!

  2. Well it is a good premise, but I agree it sounds like a large group of people were excluded. I mean, over half of marriages end in divorce. Seems like there would be something worthwhile that those people could bring to the table, since it isn’t always because they didn’t try hard enough. I wouldn’t think the author would ever encourage staying in a relationship that was toxic or abusive. I appreciate your honesty on this one.

    1. Seriously! I have to say she didn’t encourage staying in abusive relationships, but there was only once (I think) over the course of the entire book that she specifically stated that she does not believe in staying in a marriage when there is abuse involved. You’d think she’d be more clear about that.

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