“The One You’re With” By: Lauren K. Denton
“The One You’re With”
Author: Lauren K. Denton
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Price: $26.99 (Hardcover)
Secret from the Past Threatens Marital Happiness
In this novel, as in her four previous novels, Lauren Denton shows herself to be a smooth, graceful storyteller. As usual, the story here is domestic—a story of family, courtship, marriage, managing careers and raising children, but it is more complicated than that, with some twists that bring the predictable happy ending into doubt and a wry, almost devious undertone.
To begin. It is a long, long novel. Do novels need to be 386 pages? But this is a summer novel, a beach, pool or lake novel, so the longer the better. And it is a novel for women. Make no mistake. Men are not the intended readers.
The theme and plot will make men crazy, but Denton is doing it on purpose.
She is subtle.
On page 213 she drops this little unnecessary morsel. As Edie Swan, the wife, mother and protagonist of the novel enters the lobby of the Gulf Coast Women’s Center, we are told “A TV mounted to the wall played a Friends rerun with the sound turned down.”
Aha! I shouted to myself, I had been thinking about that sitcom practically from page one.
Here’s the story.
Edie, a successful interior designer and her very nice, kind, supportive, faithful, successful pediatrician husband, Mac, have a boy and a girl and have been married almost twenty years. He will have, in this novel, his fortieth birthday.
They were students together at a small college in Birmingham, then Mac went to med school. He was, she thinks, “warm. Friendly, humble. Generally the nicest human she knew.”
In the present, about 2020, living in so-called Oak Hill, an upscale community west of Mobile, she thinks “It wasn’t like it once was.” “Work, obligations, schedules, soccer tournaments, chorus performances, the regular monotony of life” have dampened things down a bit.
This seems normal.
Then on page 35, one tenth of the way through, Riley, an 18-year-old homeless girl, pregnant, walks into Dr. Swan’s office and tells him, truthfully, that she is his daughter from a brief affair he had in 2000. This is absolutely news to him. He had, truly, no idea.
That summer, after their junior year, under big pre-med academic stress, he and Edie had broken up. When told, Edie goes ballistic. Can she survive this gross infidelity? This hidden and ongoing 20-year lie? Was their married life a fraud?
Why did Mac not tell her that during the summer of 2000 he had a fling? Why did he not tell her, after they were reunited in the fall, not only EVERYTHING he did that summer but also a report on his feelings for Kat, his beautiful summer love, whom he had left behind because he was so in love with Edie. Was their life together ALL A LIE!
As Ross tells Rachel on Friends 50 times, they were ON A BREAK!
In fact, during the summer of 2000, while Mac was working at a marina in Orange Beach, Edie was in New York City on an internship.
And we learn, having some romantic feelings of her own but not for Mac. She never filled him in on all that.
For the next 300 pages we learn how they handle this situation and how their children and their parents adjust, painfully, to this admittedly dramatic new addition to their family.
Yes, the past can come back to bite you but few male readers will subscribe to the idea we are supposed to submit reports in detail.
Besides, however ironic and ambiguous Denton meant it to be, the title of the novel is from a song lyric.
As Crosby Stills and Nash advised us ages ago, “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.”
Don Noble’s newest book is Alabama Noir, a collection of original stories by Winston Groom, Ace Atkins, Carolyn Haines, Brad Watson, and eleven other Alabama authors.