State of the Union

State of the Union: A Marriage in Ten Parts
Nick Hornby
Reviewed by Phil

Tom and Louise’s marriage is falling apart. There is no passion left, boredom has crept in, and infidelity has been admitted. In a last-ditch attempt to save their failing marriage, they agree to go to couple’s therapy. Before their first session, they meet in a pub across the road from their therapist’s office. Over a drink or two, they talk about their relationship, their children and how they got to this point.

“My agenda is, why did you sleep with someone else?”

“To answer that question, I suspect we have to answer a lot of others.”

Tom likens their marriage to a computer. He’s afraid that if they take it to pieces to examine the parts, they might not be able to put it all back together again.

They go back and forth for a while, finish their drinks, and cross the road for their first meeting with Kenyon, the therapist. Tom is nervous, and suggests they go for a short walk to talk things over a little more. And then Tom bolts and disappears from view…

Over the next few weeks, we learn a lot about Tom and Louise. We never actually enter the therapist’s office, but in their pre-session meetings in the pub each week, we do get a sense of what transpired during the previous session.

“State of the Union” is a fun read. The dialogue is witty and clever. Hornby is a compassionate writer: he treats his characters with love and respect. Tom and Louise’s observations of themselves, each other, and the couples who visit Kenyon before and after their session are spot on. It’s a small book - a couple of hours’ reading on a rainy afternoon – but packs a wealth of insight into a modern marriage. The book has been made into a Sundance TV series, each of the 10 episodes just 10 minutes long.

Nick Hornby lives in Highbury, London, the home of Arsenal Football Club. He won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award for his 1992 autobiographical story, “Fever Pitch”, detailing his fanatical following of Arsenal. His other novels include “About a Boy” and “How to Be Good”, both of which were made into films.