The Divining Wand

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Laura Dave and The First Husband

May 09, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


With witty, wise, storytelling regarding the complexities of modern love — complemented by her elegantly honest prose –, Laura Dave (The Divorce Party, London Is the Best City in America) offfers readers her third novel, The First Husband, available Thursday, May 12, 2011.

How good is it really? In its May 2011 issue, Marie Claire designated The First Husband as a “NEED TO READ” decadent novel noting: “What distinguishes Dave from her peers are her keen observations about the difficulty of creating lasting love in a freedom-obsesses society, and her willingness to follow her characters into the grayest areas of their emotional lives…”

The author accomplishes just that by first introducing Annie Adams, a thirtysomething travel columnist, who watches her five-year committed relationship dissolve within an hour. After five years with someone she loved and thought would be her life partner, what does Annie do? Well that was the question that inspired the novel — how do we not live our lives in reaction? Also how do we operate from a place of agency?

As for the title, Laura explains: “In today’s age, I feel like many of my friends have such serious relationships before marriage (decade long relationships) that in some ways this person they end up parting with is a first husband. I liked that the title could speak to that a bit.”

Indeed it does and the storyline evolved into the following synopsis:

A savvy, page-turning novel about a woman torn between her husband and the man she thought she’d marry.

Annie Adams is days away from her thirty-second birthday and thinks she has finally found some happiness. She visits the world’s most interesting places for her syndicated travel column and she’s happily cohabiting with her movie director boyfriend Nick in Los Angeles. But when Nick comes home from a meeting with his therapist (aka “futures counselor”) and announces that he’s taking a break from their relationship so he can pursue a woman from his past, the place Annie had come to call home is shattered. Reeling, Annie stumbles into her neighborhood bar and finds Griffin-a grounded, charming chef who seems to be everything Annie didn’t know she was looking for. Within three months, Griffin is Annie’s husband and Annie finds herself trying to restart her life in rural Massachusetts.

A wry observer of modern love, Laura Dave “steers clear of easy answers to explore the romantic choices we make” (USA Today). Her third novel is packed with humor, empathy, and psychological insight about the power of love and home.

After three months Annie is married and starting over in rural Massachusetts?! Granted, Griffin seems to be wonderful and his small town, though isolated, is quaint and charming, albeit a bit off the beaten path. But is Annie being impulsive or reactive to finding “a ready made life” there? Because the truth is that this world travel columnist has a lack of self-worth baggage that she’s been dragging around though her mother’s numerous marriages and divorces. In other words, Annie has never had the stability to prove to herself that she deserved stability. This is one of the major themes of the novel and it’s also an issue that Laura Dave shows a brilliant take on as she says:

“I think she was deeply scared to even hope for it or ask for it — because then she would have to acknowledge how much she had longed for it. Watching Annie start to trust herself and gain a sense of self-worth (and choose a man who honored who she truly was) was a great joy for me as a writer.”

Perhaps the simple fact that Annie realizes she enjoys being with someone completely different than she’s used to –even loves him enough to marry him — makes The First Husband both insightful, delightful, and fresh. And all that likely comes from the author’s writing process. Because, when writing, Laura doesn’t know what’s going to happen….at times. Although she doesn’t follow a major outline, there are mental ideas as to where her characters are headed. However how they get there is both poignant and fun, creating a naturally human flawed storyline.

Without giving away *spoilers*, The Divining Wand asked the writer if she knew when, where, and how Annie would meet Griffin? And Laura admitted:

“I knew Annie was going to meet someone that night, and at some point I decided certain things about Griffin. But the joy for me is letting the characters talk to each other and say crazy things and be surprised myself as that meeting transpires on the page. When I feel surprised myself, I know my readers will feel that surprise too.”

Not only will there be that feeling of surprise, there will be “Aha,” and even “too close for comfort” feelings as well. For Laura Dave’s goal is to present her best possible writing by putting it first, the story second. Believing that good writing is rewriting, after the first draft, she often writes a dozen more. It’s in these drafts that the author finds what puzzle pieces are missing, what changes are needed, and what interesting bits of the story deserve more attention.

During the past decade, hundreds of novels have been written about twenty/thirtysomething women searching for happiness in quest of “Mr. Right.” TRUTH: The First Husband is not one of those novels. Instead it’s a tale of a thirtysomething woman searching for love within herself and the happiness that comes from learning where she can grow and belong. Modern love may throw in complications but it remains a universal story of self-acceptance. Which is why The First Husbandis a stunning, thoughtful, hopeful read for all ages because loving oneself is a lifelong journey. Enjoy!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The First Husband by Laura Dave in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.