May 2, 2005
Is marriage a test of how little one can live with—or how much one can give? Hammond tackles this thorny question in her second book about Hubbard, Ore., where the only through street is a highway, work is seasonal and everyone's known each other since forever. The two couples at the heart of this wise, moving novel are diner waitress Bunny and her car salesman husband, Hack, who have more money than love, and Bunny's best friend, the once lovely Anita, and Anita's secretive spouse, Bob, who have more love than money. They're all a good 20 years into their adult lives, plenty long enough to darken their vision of marriage, but not long enough for them to get insight into their own misbehavior. Hammond carefully investigates the good motivations and stark damage fueling her character's self-deceptions, bad decisions and, yes, beautiful gestures, telling her story with spare language and good humor that easily encompasses rich commentary on marital physics. And in that journey comes more than one answer about the test of marriage—witness Anita, who asks for the least and suffers the most. "See?" she tells Bunny. "You think you know all there is to know about someone, and then it turns out you didn't know a damn thing."
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