The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond
Maturity Level: 5
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Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.
The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact, and most of its rules make sense: Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . .
Never mention The Pact to anyone.
Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples–and then one of them breaks the rules. The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life, and The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule. For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.
I don’t read a lot of thrillers, but I was immediately intrigued by the synopsis of this one. The premise was so interesting! A cult about keeping marriages together. Sure! It seemed realistic enough, something one could easily get sucked into on accident. I was looking forward to seeing where this whole thing would go, how and why their lives would be in imminent danger.
But the whole thing was just kind of … dull.
I kept waiting for it to get page-turnery and keep me gripping the edge of my seat, the way you want a great thriller to do. But the only reason I moved through this novel so fast was that the chapters were short. It never got exciting or even particularly suspenseful. Nor could you really call it a “psychological” thriller. While obvious attempts at psychological elements were made, they were pretty weak.
The characters were nothing to get attached to, but then that’s often the case for thrillers for me. I feel that this book may have been stronger had it been written from the wife, Alice’s, point-of-view as she is a little more interesting and has more character depth. The husband, I can’t even remember his name if I’m being honest, was kind of dull and predictable and had absolutely nothing to make him stand out from any other 40-year-old San Franciscan. There were bits of unreliable narration, but even that felt more like Richmond changed her mind about what she wanted the truth to be than like he was lying to the reader.
Then when things finally started getting dark I just wasn’t appalled. I mean, I definitely should have been, these people were doing some pretty horrible things. But something about the way it was written just had me shrugging, rather than being horrified.
I was able to put up with the inconsistencies and the boring writing for most of the book and feel indifferent rather than actively disliking it, up until the last 75 pages or so. Good gravy what a terrible ending! Where do I even start? In an effort to have shocking twists the whole thing did about four one-eighties as it was wrapping up, none of which made even the most remote sense. Nor did I like any of the directions the book appeared to be going. The final ending was not only completely unsatisfying, but just plain dumb.
The most ridiculous part to me was how the author tried to play The Pact off as a “good cult” that just had a few bad eggs souring the whole thing for anyone. I didn’t for one second buy it, but the characters seemed to, which had me rolling my eyes big time. Then, the final choice given to the characters was so … lame? Like, who does that? And what they end up deciding is nonsensical and not in the least romantic. The book ends on a questionable note, except that I’m pretty sure they’re going to die within the next 72 hours, so I’m not at all like “OMG THAT ENDING!!!!” the way I think I’m supposed to be.
In all, an intriguing premise that I don’t think was executed as well as it could have been. Would have liked to see more excitement, more suspense, and a more satisfying ending. I don’t recommend this book, really.