Grown-Up Fairy Tales

by Abby on July 15, 2013

Every once in awhile I’ll read a couple of books and see some movies that on the surface don’t seem to be related, but when I think about it, all have a common theme. The theme today is “grown-up fairy tales.”

I’m at the age where people I know are getting divorced. Some have been widowed. Some have remarried. All the things I thought were deal-breakers and the things I thought were givens turned out not to be. Throw in a couple of kids, day-to-day stresses, and a decade or two, and life is a lot more complicated than it seemed when you were standing at the altar. It’s not that there’s no such thing as “happily ever after.” It’s just that it looks different than you imagined it.

The Lost Husband, by Katherine CenterThe first book in this category is by one of my favorite authors, Katherine Center. In her new novel, The Lost Husband, Libby Moran is still coming to grips with life after the death of her husband. A mom of two young children with a complicated relationship with her own mother, Libby’s life changes (again) when she receives an unexpected invitation from a long-lost relative to come live and work on a farm in rural Texas. New challenges, new friends, family secrets, and maybe even a new love await her. Center has a knack for making her characters come alive on the page.

Another book, very different but with that similar theme of “what now?,” was recommended to me by a friend. What Alice Forgot, by Australian author Liane Moriarty, begins with this premise: Alice Love awakens from a bump on the head at the gym thinking she’s 29, madly in love with her husband, and expecting their first child – except that in reality, it’s 10 years later, she’s a mother of 3, and in the midst of a messy divorce. As she tries to piece together the past decade, she discovers it’s harder than she thought to make sense of who she’s become and what she wants for her future. This is a book where I could not see the ending coming right up to the final pages.

Moving on to movies, I rented Celeste & Jesse Forever, mostly because I adore Rashida Jones. Not so much Andy Samberg, but he impressed me in this role. He’s not like his manic, toothy SNL characters at all. The story’s about a young couple who are divorcing, but still best friends. In fact, you may wonder (like their friends do), why they’re divorcing at all. The movie is funny and a little sad and thought-provoking, too. It goes back to those deal-breakers again: are they really what we think they are? Kudos to Emma Roberts for her funny turn as a Miley Cyrus-type pop star. (BTW, this film reminded me of a similar one that I didn’t like as much, The Five-Year Engagement.)

Before Midnight, a movie starring Ethan Hawke and Julie DelpyThen, in a shockingly out-of-character move for me, I actually saw a current movie in the THEATER, even! In case you’re not familiar, Before Midnight, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, is the third film in a trilogy by director Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise, 1995, and Before Sunset, 2004, are the other two). Basically, each movie is about this good-looking couple wandering around some European city having deep conversations. In this one, they are married and the parents of young twins, vacationing on a Greek island. Their conversations about juggling marriage and work and parenting had me nodding my head in recognition. People love these movies, but I wouldn’t say this one was an enjoyable escape, exactly. The actors are appealing, but the subject matter’s too close to home, if you know what I mean.

But sometimes you want a little more than The Wedding Planner-style romantic comedy that gets tied up with a pretty pink bow at the end, you know? But not depressing, marriage-is-doomed and life-is-cruel stuff either. Stuff that’s messy and complicated and makes you think. Like real life, but without the boring parts. 🙂

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Lou Mello July 15, 2013 at 7:48 am

Life just seems to move on in its own ways sometimes and all we can do is figure out how to fit in. My first marriage ended in divorce after 15 years, totally shocking and we just became totally different people. I am now happily married for 26 years and it gets better all the time. What is the difference?? I don’t really have an answer, we just get along so well and enjoy doing things together and I think we work at making it a good marriage.


Abby July 16, 2013 at 11:04 am

That’s so interesting, Lou. I wonder that all the time, too – what makes the difference between one couple working out and another not? Especially after 15 years together. I find myself thinking, “If you just make it to X years, you’ll be fine” even though I’ve seen time and again that that’s not true.


Angie Mizzell July 15, 2013 at 9:37 am

I’ll definitely read the Lost Husband, and What Alice Forgot sounds really good. I mean, I can’t even imagine, and it raises the whole “what went wrong”? question. My neighbors are getting divorced and it’s sad to watch. No judgment, because I come from a family where almost everyone is divorced. Like Lou said, to make it through the long haul, you have to figure out how to keep doing things together and remain friends. It takes work, and it doesn’t always work out.


Abby July 16, 2013 at 11:06 am

It IS sad, though I’ve totally changed my view of divorce. I used to think it was only sad for the couple, but now I feel so sad for the kids (if they have any), and also the families and friends. It affects everybody. And in some cases, though I didn’t used to understand this, it’s actually a good thing.


Jessica Smock July 15, 2013 at 10:17 am

I have not seen a movie in AGES! I desperately want to see Beyond Midnight. I was a huge fan of the first two movies. My husband is somewhat resistant. We saw the trailer online, and his comment was: “Why do I want to see a movie about two people fighting and talking about kids and being parents? Let’s save money and watch a video of ourselves.” Thanks for the book recommendations! I hadn’t heard of either of them. They sound like great choices!


Abby July 16, 2013 at 11:07 am

Lol! That sounds exactly like something my husband would say. Which is why I went to see it with a girlfriend. 🙂


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