Mating For Life is Marissa Stapley's absolutely wonderful debut novel.
Former folk singer Helen has three daughters, Liane, Fiona and Ilsa. They all have different fathers and very different lives. But all four women have one thing in common. They are all facing changes, crossroads and crises in their lives.
Helen has eschewed matrimony her whole life. Now at sixty, she's found the man she would like to grow old with - but he wants marriage. Liane too, is contemplating marriage - but is she in love? She's attracted to the man on the next dock, but discovers he is married. Ilsa is on her second marriage, but her eye is wandering also. What is she willing to gamble - and what is she prepared to lose? Fiona is the one everyone can count on - to do the right thing and have everything planned. Her marriage is seemingly perfect. Seemingly - until a secret her husband has kept for many years is finally exposed.
There are many other women in the novel as well - acquaintances, friends and other family members - each with their own set of circumstances that Stapley brilliantly examines through actions, conversations and self examination.
The women's conversations and emotions were honest and believable, providing much food for thought in the reader's own lives. Fidelity, friendship and family and most of all, finding one's self and roles in life, are the focus of Stapley's evocative debut.
Stapley has a wonderful way with words. . I found myself rereading a few passages as I enjoyed the ideas and imagery so much....
"...she kept driving, turning her head to look out at the water, knowing she should be focusing on the road but unable to remember the last time she had driven along a road with no particular destination. Maybe never. The sun hit the waves, which smashed against the breakwater. 'Make a U-turn', the GPS instructed. She turned it off. On the other side, there was calm, and a pair of swans paddling together into the sun. She watched the swans until her chin was at her shoulder, then turned to face the road again and redirected her car so that she was once again heading in the right direction."
The Muskoka cottage country is the setting for many of the main scenes/get togethers. I enjoy reading about an area I'm familiar with. Stapley must be as well - the setting is easily pictured. (As are the scenes set in Toronto)
Stapley prefaces each chapter with a short blurb describing the mating habits of various animal species, from snapping turtles to bears to birds and more. Make sure to take the time to read them - they are directly relatable to that chapter. (As well as being informative)
Mating for Life was an engaging read. I found myself caught up in each woman's life, wondering at the choices they were making and where they would land. I appreciate that Stapley has not written cookie cutter lives for her characters.
An excellent debut and a book you'll want to pass on to the women in your life.
You can find Marissa Stapley on Facebook and on Twitter.