Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart
Published by Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins

Sarah Price is perfectly content with her life – working full-time so her husband, Nathan, can write fiction for a living and being mommy to their two young children. Sure, her life at thirty-five isn’t exactly what she had pictured ten years ago, but she’s mostly happy with the way things have turned out. Until the fateful day when Nathan delivers shocking news – his new novel, Infidelity, is not exactly fiction, but a mirror of his own life as he’s recently had an affair. Untethered and betrayed, Sarah must figure out how she got into this wife/mom role in the first place, why she gave up on her own dreams in favor of her husband’s, and if she can ever begin to forgive Nathan and possibly keep their family intact.

I’ve been hearing great things about Leah Stewart’s books for some time now, and when I learned that she’s going to be at the upcoming UCF Book Festival I decided it was high time I pick up one of her novels. Ultimately I am happy I read this one. It was reminiscent of books by authors like Jennifer Weiner or Emily Giffin – novels I like to call smart chick lit. The perfect book that is easy to read but has plenty of heart, great characters, and deals with serious subjects.

In this case, cheating and the possibility of divorce are the most obvious themes running through the novel, but Stewart brings so many insights to the subject of marriage itself to the table here. Sarah is a character wrestling with the fact that she turned into such a different person after getting married and having children from who she was before, and this is a fact that she didn’t realize until Nathan cheated. This rang so true to me – who hasn’t made compromises or changed their dreams partly due to their spouse and/or children? If you can tell me your life is exactly as you pictured it ten years ago I’d call BS for sure – I think we all divert our paths as we grow and change and mature. In Sarah’s case, she was left questioning the diversions her own path had taken as she began to understand that she made incredible sacrifices for the sake of her family and had to wonder if her husband even realized that to be the case. So many of Sarah’s musings throughout this novel felt so authentic to me and I really felt a camaraderie with her – even though I have never been in her exact situation.

I also loved that Husband and Wife dealt with the reality of infidelity, of the fact that when you have a marriage and a home and children and someone cheats, you don’t just automatically leave them and move on with your life. Sarah truly struggled with the decisions she had to make upon learning of Nathan’s infidelity – marriage isn’t something you can toss away because of one transgression. Yes, some people do make the choice to divorce after one person cheats, and that’s a perfectly fine choice to make, but it’s not the obvious nor easy choice in most cases. Stewart doesn’t shy away from the fact that this is a messy situation with real-life consequences, and she shows the awful, gut-wrenching decision-making process that Sarah (and Nathan) had to go through.

And I liked the characters! Sarah, especially, is incredibly well-drawn. She is a great mother who makes a million mistakes a day. She works hard at her job but isn’t terribly ambitious. She is a loving wife who can be unkind to her husband at times. She is a true friend who calls her friends almost never. Basically, she is a person who mirrors the reality of many women’s lives. I saw myself and many of my close friends in her and I appreciated her character, with all her flaws, that much more for it. I even sympathized with Nathan, even though I hated what he did. Stewart created in Nathan this incredibly flawed guy who, at the core of his being, did still desperately love his wife and was deeply apologetic about what he had done. I despised his actions but could still empathize with his character, which says a lot about the quality of Stewart’s writing.

Have I explained with enough detail how much I enjoyed Husband and Wife? I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s one of my favorite books ever, but I truly appreciated so much about this novel and am very much looking forward to reading more of Leah Stewart’s books. For lovers of the women’s fiction and chick lit type novels, this is a must-read!