That, at least, is the intention. Lopate perfectly captures Gordon's voice, that of a hyper-intellectual who is acutely self-aware (of his personal flaws, of his intellectual gifts, of his culture and privilege), maddeningly unaware of what those around him are feeling, and touchingly unaware of what those around him are capable of doing.
Gordon meets Rita when his mother is dying. She is one of the round-the-clock caregivers he's hired to look after his mother. She is younger than he, a beautiful, voluptuous Filipina in the country on a work visa, and he is awed and flattered when she returns his tentative advances. Three months later they are married. As is so often the case, things change. Gordon and Rita grow to know one another better, he learns about her past, and with increasing rapidity that past begins to encroach on their present.
Although the events that follow are wacky and outrageous, and even kind of funny, still, Gordon's development as a person is heartbreakingly realistic and believable. Gordon, a not entirely likeable character for most of the story in the end earns our sympathy and compassion.
In the second novella, Eleanor, or, The Second Marriage we eavesdrop upon a very different sort of relationship. It is the second marriage for both Eleanor and Frank, each has his own career, friends, children; together they have fashioned the ideal life. Once again, we have privileged New York intellectuals living in Brooklyn. Over the course of one weekend truths emerge, lies are revealed, and cracks emerge in the marriage's facade. Still, though the end is ambiguous, we have hope for Eleanor and Frank.
From love's initial elation and the infatuation which turns flaws into charming quirks, and on through the settling down period, up to final disillusionment, Lopate has love down. He is not, however, down on love. I was satisfied upon finishing Two Marriages, satisfied because I had read two lovely, artful novellas and satisfied by the portrayal of the resilience of the human spirit. Perhaps love doesn't conquer all, but even having loved makes life richer and more meaningful.
What I'm reading now: Rules of Deception by Christopher Reich
Disclosure: In accordance with new FTC guidelines for bloggers I must let you know that I received a free review copy of this title. My reviews are just that: reviews. They are not endorsements, nor am I ever compensated for posting my opinion.