Laura Dave’s third novel, THE FIRST HUSBAND, reflects--to some extent--the attempts of her first-person narrator, travel columnist Annabelle “Annie” Adams, to explain how she ended up married to a chef she met in a bar just days after her live-in boyfriend of over five years told her, on the advice of his “futures consultant” (a.k.a. his therapist) that he needed “a break” from their relationship. She finds it’s not the easiest thing to explain...and that sometimes understanding, particularly of the emotional variety, comes without--or despite--explanations.
I don’t totally agree with Annie’s opening statement that she “brought all of it on (her)self,” but as I became engrossed in her story, I could see why she’d feel that way (and I could relate, as someone who also tends to take a little TOO much responsibility for what happens to her). She was blindsided by Nick’s announcement that he needed a break from her, but realized on reflection that perhaps she shouldn’t have been. And she accepted that perhaps she and Griffin really didn’t need to know everything about each other’s past relationships, but didn’t realize how much those would affect their own future relationship. And while she’s willing to take responsibility, Annie gets surprised quite a lot.
But what surprised Annie frequently surprised me too, and I found that the surprises were a big part of what made THE FIRST HUSBAND such a pleasure to read. Annie’s situation is indeed “messy and complicated” (if not consistently “brutal”), and it develops in ways I frequently didn’t see coming; I really appreciated that a story that summarizes as something pretty predictable rolled out as something different--beginning with the meaning of its title--than what I expected. It was also something more than I expected--more insightful, more amusing, and more sympathetic. The characters surrounding Annie were more developed than supporting characters in a first-person narrative often are; I think that if they hadn’t been, the feel of the novel would have been less messy and complicated, and it would have been much less effective--and less affecting, as well.
I don’t read “chick lit” much any more--partly because I’m getting a bit old to be a “chick,” and am getting more interested in somewhat more mature-sounding “women’s fiction” with protagonists closer to my age--but I’ve always preferred my reading in that vein with more depth and less fluff, and THE FIRST HUSBAND definitely qualifies. Laura Dave is an author I need to catch up with; this third novel of hers is the first I’ve read, but it won’t be the last.