Title: A Better Man by Leah McLaren
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
What if the only way you could get out of your marriage was to become the perfect husband?
Nick and Maya Wakefield’s relationship has been in crisis since Maya left her high-powered legal career to stay home with their now 3-year-old twins. Today she feels invisible, anxious, and under-appreciated, and Nick has checked out of family life. Sex is a distant memory and the love is gone.
A workaholic and a consummate flirt, Nick has decided he wants out. But he balks when their old friend, a divorce attorney, shows him that as sole breadwinner, he stands to lose the most. Together, he and his friend hatch a plan: Nick will act like an ideal husband and father in order to ease the pain of leaving and make out better in court. So he encourages Maya to go back to work, spends time with the kids, and even takes her on a vacation without them. But with his cynical ruse comes a surprising change of heart. Nick is astonished to find his actual emotions match his act and now his marriage is truly on the mend. That is, until Maya finds out, and Nick’s world falls to pieces. Now his only hope of saving his family is to prove to his wife that he really is the man he was pretending to be.
A BETTER MAN is a sharply observant novel of the pitfalls of marriage and success, and how one couple must lose it all before they can hope to find their way back.
A Better Man by Leah McLaren is a captivating, thought-provoking novel about a couple whose troubled marriage is on the verge of collapsing.
Nick and Maya Wakefield were, at one time, the perfect couple with a happy, sex-filled marriage. However, their once happy union has slowly disintegrated in the three years since the birth of their twins, Foster and Isla. Maya gave up her career as a lawyer to become a stay at home mom while Nick gradually turned into a workaholic. Nick is ready to move on but after learning how much a divorce will cost him, he instead decides to take their mutual friend (and fellow lawyer) Adam Gray’s advice to minimize how much the dissolution of his marriage will cost him. However, once Nick begins spending more time with his wife and kids, he rethinks the divorce but will a shocking betrayal cost him his family?
In the beginning, neither Nick nor Maya are particularly likable or sympathetic characters. Both are rather selfish and the gulf between them is of their own making. Maya is a bit of a control freak whose fears for her children’s safety borders on the ridiculous and her childrearing philosophy is cringe inducing. As for Nick, his ambivalence toward fatherhood plays a huge role in allowing Maya to make him a spectator in not only his children’s lives, but their marriage. Each of them is clearly unhappy, but they deal with their dissatisfaction in different ways. Maya tries to deal with her frustrations through exercise and fantasies about her personal trainer while Nick manages his discontent by working long hours and indulging in flirtatious liaisons with other women.
However, once Nick follows Adam’s advice about pretending to become a better husband and father, both Nick and Maya begin to evolve. At first, Maya is a bit distrustful of Nick’s motives, but she willingly chooses to ignore her doubts and enjoy the changes in their lives. She begins to loosen up and relax her standards once Nick starts becoming more present in their lives. The pair begin “dating” and while their first attempts at intimacy do not exactly go as planned, they do make progress in becoming a couple again. This shift in their status leads to Maya letting go of her tight hold on Isla and Foster and Nick begins to step up and become a parent to their children.
Now that their marriage is on a more even keel, Maya decides it is time to consider going back to work. Their friend Adam is a logical starting point and she is soon back on track with her law career. Nick is nothing but supportive and he eagerly picks up the slack at home. At this point, he is rethinking his plans to divorce Maya but outside interference threatens to derail their relationship.
A Better Man is a well-written novel with a unique storyline. While Nick and Maya are not particularly likable in the beginning, they gradually transform into characters that are impossible not to root for by the novel’s end. Leah McLaren throws in a completely unexpected plot twist (!) and the fate of their marriage hangs in the balance right up until the story’s dramatic conclusion. A truly unforgettable read that I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend.