Could you make this arrangement with your spouse?
No questions asked.
No talking about it.
No falling in love.
No sex with anyone you know.
Condoms every time.
...but full freedom to sleep with anyone you want.
Could you have an open marriage, if these were the rules? Could you essentially cheat on your spouse, having sex freely and without consequence, if you knew he/she knew about it, gave his/her consent, and was likely doing the same?
That's exactly the experiment that Lucy and Owen test out in Sarah Dunn's new novel, The Arrangement. Parents to a young boy on the autism spectrum and living a typical insulated suburban life in Beekman, where everything seems like a Norman Rockwell painting on the surface, but under that polished veneer the same ladies who volunteer at the school are getting through the day by popping Adderall and the kindergarten teacher is making the transition from male to female.
The idea comes to Lucy and Owen one wine-soaked summer evening on their deck, during a dinner party with friends. The friends bring up the topic of open marriage, and secretly Lucy's wheels start turning. She brings up the topic hypothetically with Owen, and they even go as far as writing down a list of rules they would follow if they were to actually do it, but then the idea is dismissed, put off as something other people do. At least that's what Owen thinks.
One night in bed, Lucy says four words that would change the course of their marriage forever:
"I've changed my miind."
Against his better judgement, Owen agrees and the clock starts ticking on the six months. What unfolds is something neither of them could predict.
This book is an interesting exploration of marriage and what it means to play by the rules. Who defines those rules? Are traditional marriages the way they are for a reason? If you're looking for an absorbing exploration of the anatomy of marriage, affairs, and what it means to live the life you're meant to live, punctuated by a cast of highly interesting and compelling characters, I highly recommend you pick up this book. It's the kind of book you'll want to share with your girlfriends -- but beware of conversations that ensue over too much wine, or you just mind find yourself picking up an orange Sharpie and creating your own list of rules :)
Sarah Dunn has written two other novels, and is currently the creator and executive producer for the hit ABC TV series, American Housewife. She lives outside NYC with her family and their seventeen chickens.