Saturday, November 30, 2013

Review: The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan (audio)

Title: The Engagements    
Author: J. Courtney Sullivan   
Narrator: Kimberly Farr  
Published: June 2013, Random House Audio  
Length: 17 hours  
Source: Library 

From the New York Times best-selling author of Maine and Commencement comes a big, sprawling novel about marriage--about those who marry in a white heat of passion, those who marry for partnership and comfort, and those who live together, love each other, and have absolutely no intention of ruining it all with a wedding.

Evelyn has been married to her husband for forty years--forty years since he slipped off her first wedding ring and put his own in its place. Delphine knows both sides of love--the ecstatic, glorious highs of seduction and the bitter, spiteful fury that descends when it's over. James, a paramedic who works the night shift, knows his wife's family thinks she could have done better. Kate, partnered with Dan for ten years, has seen every kind of wedding--from the Nantucket beach wedding to the Irish castle wedding--and has vowed never, ever, to have one of her own. And Mary Frances Gerety, a young advertising copywriter, knows exactly what marriage is: it's a diamond ring on a girl's finger--and it's her job to make sure everyone believes that. Weaving these lives together, Sullivan gives us a sharply observed, witty, irresistible portrait of the thorny, joyful, and complicated union that is marriage. 

My thoughts: I only recently discovered J. Courtney Sullivan when I listened to her book, Maine, earlier this year. I really enjoyed that one, so I was excited when I heard she had a new book coming out this year. I was very excited that I was able to get it on audio, too!

I loved the way J. Courtney Sullivan told this story using four people's experiences with marriage over four time periods. The story moves back and forth amongst the four different stories while also telling the story of Mary Frances Gerety, the young copywriter who comes up with the famous line for selling diamonds that's still used today - A Diamond is Forever. 

Each of the four fictional stories make the case for why they are or are not for marriage. We get snap shots into their daily lives and come to find out why they have come to the conclusions they have on the subject of marriage. Sullivan has created characters with strong personalities and they are all presented with moral dilemmas, much like we would be in our daily life. I think this is what makes them all more relatable.  

The end of the book gives the reader a pleasant surprise that I had started to guess at but was still not totally sure I was right about. I love books like this. It makes me want to reread them to see if I can pick up on things all the way through.

I think of all the stories in the book, it's Mary Frances Gerety's story that I found to be the most fascinating. I also loved hearing all the facts about the engagement rings - about how the advertisers sell diamonds and pay attention to changes in society when necessary. I lucked husband did a phenomenal job with my engagement ring. He designed it himself and I absolutely love it. It was only at the end of the book that I found out Mary Frances Gerety was a real person. I would absolutely love to see if there is a biography or any other books written about her. 

I have really come to enjoy J. Courtney Sullivan's writing style and will definitely be checking out her other books. I've listened to both the books I've read of her's so far and found that they work well on audio. I love when that happens! If you listen to audio books, do you have an author that you automatically do in audio?

Audio Thoughts: I think this was a great book to listen to on audio - and Kimberly Farr did a great job with all the different story lines. It was very easy to keep track of which story she was telling. I've listened to her narrate one other book before and will definitely be looking to see what else she has narrated.



  1. I read Commencement by the author earlier this year - she uses the multiple perspectives there too - I really enjoy her writing. Great review!

    1. I will have to look to see if I can get that one on audio...thanks!

  2. I've heard so many great things about this book lately, I'll definitely be trying to get to reading it this coming year :)


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