How far will you go to make sure your marriage is a success? That’s the question Jake, the main character in Michelle Richmond’s superbly crafted thriller, has to ask himself. At first the answer seems obvious. But as Jake descends deeper into the murky world of The Pact — a secretive group whose aim is to safeguard its members’ marriages — the true nature of the conundrum slowly unfolds until it becomes a choice of life and death. And it all started so innocently…
Jake is a marriage guidance therapist. Alice, his new wife, a successful attorney rapidly climbing the corporate ladder. Like any newly-wed couple, there are a few minor issues that need to be smoothed out. Alice is devoted to her work. During the few hours she spends at home with Jake, she has the habit of leaving rooms in a mess, too short of time to clear up after herself. In tandem with this, Jake doubts his reasons for proposing to Alice in the first place. Was his desire to marry Alice driven by altruistic love, or was it just a convenient legalistic way to capture her for himself? Fortunately, there is a support group, The Pact, that believes in the sanctity of marriage. It may be unnervingly mysterious, but The Pact offers guidance and help to its members, providing a template that is designed to guarantee a long and happy marriage. It’s simple enough: continually surprise your spouse with little gifts of affection; take regularly breaks away together; strive to maintain a healthy work/home life balance. In fact, The Pact’s guidance manual is packed full of common-sense advice drafted to ensure a successful marriage. The only problem is that marriage rarely comes with a failsafe guarantee.
When Jake stumbles into an old college flame at a Pact members’ evening, the consequences increasingly unsettle him. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that Alice seems intent on reigniting her friendship with Eric, a fellow band member from her youthful rebellious years fronting a fringe-gig rock group. Suddenly, Jake and Alice’s marriage is under threat from the growing mistrust that builds between them — and from the very organisation that has tasked itself with perpetuating their life together, The Pact.
Disturbing in nature, the narrative challenges the reader to reassess the accepted morals that govern present-day personal behaviour. As it delves into ever-harrowing details of misdemeanour, punishment, rehabilitation, and self-responsibility, Jake and Alice find themselves confronted by an overwhelming force that appears destine to destroy them while purporting to want nothing more than to provide protection. I don’t want to spoil the plot, and so I’ll leave you to discover how Jake and Alice resolve the potentially lethal dilemma facing them.
So, how far would you be willing to go to make sure your marriage is a success?
Simply, this is the best book I’ve read in 2017.