Review: Mating for Life by Marissa Stapley

matingTitle: Mating for Life by Marissa Stapley
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


With pitch-perfect honesty and heartwarming humor, this captivating debut explores marriage, motherhood, identity, and what it takes to love someone—family members, friends, or spouses—for life.

Former folk singer Helen Sear was a feminist wild child who proudly disdained monogamy, raising three daughters—each by a different father—largely on her own. Now in her sixties, Helen has fallen in love with a traditional man who desperately wants to marry her. And while she fears losing him, she’s equally afraid of abandoning everything she’s ever stood for if she goes through with it.

Meanwhile, Helen’s youngest daughter, Liane, is in the heady early days of a relationship with her soul mate. But he has an ex-wife and two kids, and her new role as a “step-something” doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Ilsa, an artist, has put her bohemian past behind her and is fervently hoping her second marriage will stick. Yet her world feels like it is slowly shrinking, and her painting is suffering as a result—and she realizes she may need to break free again, even if it means disrupting the lives of her two young children. And then there’s Fiona, the eldest sister, who has worked tirelessly to make her world pristine, yet who still doesn’t feel at peace. When she discovers her husband has been harboring a huge secret, Fiona loses her tenuous grip on happiness and is forced to face some truths about herself that she’d rather keep buried.

Interweaving the alternating perspectives of Helen, her daughters, and the women surrounding them, “each new chapter brings a wise and tender look at single life, dating rituals, and marital unease” (New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Close). In this “absolute feat of storytelling” (bestselling author Grace O’Connell), Marissa Stapley celebrates the many roles modern women play, and shows that even though happy endings aren’t one-size-fits-all, some loves really can last for life.

The Review:

Mating for Life by Marissa Stapley is a compelling and thought-provoking novel about family, love and relationships. Written from numerous perspectives, each character offers unique insight into the different relationships in their lives and their own experiences with love, friends and family. Each of the women is at a romantic crossroads that challenges their long held beliefs about love and lead to some very unexpected decisions that not only impact their love life but also their relationships with one another.

Former folk singer Helen Sear has three daughters from three different men whom she never married. The three women, Fiona, Ilsa and Liane have very different personalities and lives but all of them, including Helen, are suddenly facing unexpected relationship conflicts. Helen has fallen in love with a very traditional man whose desire for marriage unintentionally drives a wedge between them. Liane is contemplating marriage to her longtime boyfriend but wonders whether she is truly in love with him. Ilsa is married with two young children but her growing dissatisfaction with her stalled creativity and marriage lead her to consider indulging in an affair. Fiona has the perfect life with a perfect husband and three perfect children but a shocking discovery leaves her reeling and shakes the very foundation of everything she believes in.

Each of the characters are well-developed and for the most part, likable. Of the three sisters, Ilsa is the hardest to like for part of the story, but by the end of the novel, she finally makes positive changes in her life. Fiona comes across as harsh and unforgiving but as information about her background emerges, she becomes more sympathetic. Liane is easily the most likable and watching her stand on her own despite her uncertainties is immensely gratifying. Helen is a fabulous character who admits to her mistakes and although she is flawed and imperfect, she is also very warm and loving.

The family dynamics ring true as do the situations each of the women are facing. Marissa Stapley does not shy away from difficult topics and this adds dimension to the characters and the storyline. Each of the chapters opens with an interesting fact about the mating habits of birds and wildlife that closely parallels that particular section of the story.

Mating for Life is a beautifully written novel that is poignant yet heartwarming. The growth and transformation of the characters and their various relationships is realistic and uplifting. A wonderful debut by Marissa Stapley that leaves me eagerly awaiting her next release.

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Filed under Atria Books, Contemporary, Fiction, Marissa Stapley, Mating for Life, Rated B+, Review

2 Responses to Review: Mating for Life by Marissa Stapley

  1. Cindy DeGraaff

    Thanks for this review, Kathy!

  2. Timitra

    Thanks for the author intro