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Listen to the Marriage by John Jay Osborn

Listen to the Marriage

by John Jay Osborn

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648283,784 (3.77)5
"A riveting drama of marital therapy"--"Gretchen and Steve have been married for a long time. Living in San Francisco, recently separated, with two children and demanding jobs, they?ve started going to a marriage counselor. Unfolding over the course of ten months and taking place entirely in the marriage counselor?s office, John Jay Osborn?s Listen to the Marriage is the story of a fractured couple in a moment of crisis, and of the person who tries to get them to see each other again. A searing look at the obstacles we put in our own way, as well as the forces that drive us apart (and those that bring us together), Listen to the Marriage is a poignant exploration of marriage?heartbreaking and tender." --Amazon.com.… (more)



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This book takes place only in the confines of a marriage counselor's office. Two people in a marriage on the rocks and their counselor. You may not like these people at times but you can still learn some important things. ( )
  knittinkitties | Aug 25, 2019 |
I picked this book up off of my local library's New Books shelf based on the cover art and the concept -- that this is a novel set in a marriage counselor's office and centers on a single, troubled marriage. And, as happens most of the time when I chose a book this way, the experience of reading this book was decidedly mixed.

Gretchen and Steve are separated, contemplating divorce. Steve's a high powered executive and Gretchen is a university professor. They have two kids. Steve had an affair and Gretchen feels he can't be trusted. Over an extended length of time they meet weekly with Sandy, a somewhat unconventional therapist. In the right hands, this could have been a fascinating character study and a look at what it means to move toward divorce, but the author sticks to the surfaces of his characters. Steve reforms immediately, becoming a dedicated father and thoughtful partner all at once. The entire tension of the novel rests on whether or not Gretchen can forgive Steve enough to move back in with him. They're rich and privileged, in ways that reduce the potential tension of the story -- when Gretchen worries about money, Steve hands her a check for two hundred thousand dollars, childcare is easy with Steve's parents always willing and available.

Still, it's interesting to eavesdrop on marriage therapy, even if I'm not convinced that the therapist's methods were based on any actual therapeutical practices. I did move from being very interested into wishing the sessions were less repetitive, less rehashing of familiar ground. And the writing was straight-forward, with an old-fashioned feel to it that made the novel feel like it could have been set anytime in the past fifty years. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Jul 16, 2019 |
In schmaltzy romantic movies, the hero and heroine embrace before the final fade-out. Real-life couples, however, face challenges that may derail their expectations. Ill health, money problems, infidelity, and a host of other issues can make it difficult to sustain a mutually satisfying relationship. John Jay Osborn, in "Listen to the Marriage," offers an original and offbeat psychological study of Gretchen and Steve, both professionals in their thirties who reside in San Francisco. They have separated and are seeking the help of Sandy Hyland, a sarcastic, outspoken, and amazingly intuitive marriage counselor. The entire novel takes place in Sandy's office; we get to eavesdrop on her thoughts, and soon realize that she is no run-of-the-mill therapist.

In this fascinating "he says" "she says" examination of why Gretchen and Steve appear to be going their separate ways, we discover that Steven had an affair and Gretchen threw him out. She shares custody of their son and daughter with Steve, who claims that he regrets his mistake and wants to make amends. Sandy urges both of them to reveal their innermost feelings, no matter how painful this may be. Some readers will scratch their heads in bewilderment at some of Sandy's unconventional tactics: She talks about her personal life, and tells her clients off when she believes that they are being stubborn, disingenuous, and/or unwilling to deal with the truth about themselves and their spouse.

This is an engrossing novel, with its wry and clever dialogue, impressive use of metaphor, and demonstration of the fragility of romantic love. On the other hand, it is a bit hard to accept that anyone would pay what is probably a hefty fee to someone as tough as Sandy, who tells Steve and Gretchen, "My job isn't to make you feel comfortable." Still, Steve and Gretchen continue to see Sandy, both together and individually, when they realize that she is helping them settle their differences constructively. The author paints a nuanced and compelling portrait of two good-hearted individuals who are intelligent but emotionally stunted. Osborn's "Listen to the Marriage" sensitively addresses the question of how and why the hoped for "happily ever after" ending often turns into an ugly war of words in which neither side can claim victory. ( )
  booklover915 | Feb 5, 2019 |
Why do I envision men hating this book? It's the retelling of a series of counseling sessions for a married couple in crisis. They're cisgendered, white, and wealthy, and relatively undeserving of our attention and our pity - but it's told from the PoV of their talented therapist. The writer is able to show how she a) is able to minimize her own baggage, and b)uses wisdom and common sense to help the pair get beyond their betrayals and to learn to listen to each other. Not as ground-breaking as his decades-old The Paper Chase (great movie, too), it's a relaxed and quick read.

Quote: "Marriage is something you build up over time. It's like a brick wall, you build it one brick at a time. But romantic love is like a drug, you take it, and bam, you're there, you're in it. The problem is, then it wears off." ( )
  froxgirl | Nov 20, 2018 |
Many thanks to Netgalley, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and John Jay Osborn for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are 100& my own and independent of receiving an advanced copy.

How much power, emotion, honesty, and truth can be packed into 256 pages? Quite a bit, if you are talking about “Listen To The Marriage”. What an incredible experience it was to be a fly on the wall, while Gretchen and Steve pore their hearts out to Sandy, their marriage councillor. I was completely caught up in their struggle, reading it all in one afternoon. I had been having a hard time, of late, trying to find a book to latch onto. Flitting from horror to magic to mystery, but nope, it was this little tiny gem about betrayal, growth and change that grabbed me. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down.

Gretchen and Steve are broken. So much so, that they are afraid they are headed for divorce. They find themselves in the office of Sandy, an unconventional marriage therapist. Can they pick up the pieces and put themselves together again? When they do, who will they be? Will they stay together or forge life ahead, apart? Told mostly through the therapist’s voice, we get a rare glimpse into what a marriage looks like, how what starts with love and hopes and dreams can get derailed into something so unrecognizable that you are driving straight into an abyss. Sandy is wise, patient and surprisingly non-judgemental for someone who can clearly see into these people’s motives. Both Gretchen and Steve have to do the work of breaking down walls and opening up about their feelings, in order to see what, if anything, is left between them. If you have ever sat in a therapist’s office, a lot of this will ring true. For example, Sandy always remains impartial, but damned if Gretchen doesn’t accuse her of secretly being on Steve’s side. Very typical, especially if your therapist is not always agreeing with you and maybe challenging you to grow.

If you are married, or have been married for a while, you will find something to relate to in Gretchen and Steve’s marriage. It takes you through all the mess that marriage can be. How you start out on a team and after some time goes by, without quite knowing how, you end up pitted against each other, just trying to keep your head above water and stop from losing yourself altogether. If you are lucky, you have healthy ways to communicate and respect each other’s boundaries. Sometimes, there is betrayal. Steve has an affair and Gretchen has to find a way to forgive him, regardless if they get back together. Once children are part of the picture, you are forever tied to one another.

I am still married. I related so much to this novel, it was a bit of a sob-fest for me. I completely understood Gretchen’s rage at how unfair it was that now that Steve had changed and became this self-aware, great father, someone else was going to get the benefit of all her hard work. I also recognized the pattern of speak that a couple can sometimes get into. You have the same conversation, over and over again, it almost writes itself. It is hard to break out of that without the help of someone from the outside. I thought the choice Osborn made to have the voice of the therapist narrate the novel brilliant, because how else can the reader stay impartial. It was a bit unrealistic how omnipotent she was with her clients. I doubt therapists are so in tune with their patients. If they were, no one would divorce. I recognized the desire to be “right” over the desire to try and fix things. How about saying something you don’t really mean because you are trying to cover up for how hurt you are.

There were a few unrealistic issues that did crop up other than Sandy being omnipotent. The couple never argued about money. Both were successful. I understood why the author made that choice. I’m going to assume it was because he could focus more on feelings but it rang a little false. Everyone argues about money, even people that have it. It also meant that it was easy for Gretchen to move out and find a place. Steve could jump from an apartment to this beautiful house without missing a beat. Finances bring a whole other dimension and host of problems to a divorce or separation and Osborn chose to ignore those in this situation. I think I understand why, but again, it was a little bell going off in the back of my head.

I was a little surprised that this was written by a man. I had no idea that a man could have so much insight into how a woman feels. The writing was really good. The pace of the novel moved quickly and, like I said, I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what happened. I was really rooting for them, even though I couldn’t see how that could happen after everything that had gone on up to this point. The cover is perfect and I love the symbolism of the green chair. At the end I was spent and completely satisfied. Don’t go looking for romantic gestures and fantasy dialogue in this novel. Only hard truths and raw emotion - the best that real life has to offer. But in the best way possible. ( )
  PinkPurlandProse | Oct 24, 2018 |
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