Love and Other Natural Disasters
5 Spot (2009)
Reviewed by Danielle Feliciano for Reader Views (1/09)
When I read that this book was written by a licensed marriage/family therapist, I admit to some hesitation about how good it would actually be. Too often I have read books written by professionals in their field who use fiction as way to reach readers who do not stray to the “self-help” section of the bookstore. However, it did not take long for me to figure out that “Love and Other Natural Disasters” is a clear exception to the rule. Ms. Shumas does a superb job of not allowing her professional experience to take over the story and rather, uses that experience to have well-thought-out characters take the story in its own direction.
“Love and Other Natural Disasters” tells the story of Eve, a woman who is 8-months pregnant and enjoying Thanksgiving with her family, including husband Jon and 5-year-old son, Jacob. It is on this day, surrounded by guests, that Eve finds out Jon has been having an emotional affair for the past year. Jon feels he is innocent since there was no physical consummation of the affair, and seems to not understand Eve’s sense of betrayal.
Told entirely from Eve’s point of view, “Love and Other Natural Disasters” explores what it is like to have your entire world torn from you, and to have that compounded by the fact that you are about to give birth to the child of a man who has hurt and betrayed you so deeply. It shows how sides are chosen, and how those who can offer the most help and support are often the last people we’d expect to turn to. Ms. Shumas uses a seamless flow of stories past and present to give the reader the whole picture of the story of Eve and Jon, and no stone goes unturned as we travel the road from betrayal to forgiveness with them.
Some aspects of the story were predictable. We had the betrayed spouse (being pregnant added to the sympathy factor), oblivious husband, adorable child, and a myriad of friends and family members to round out all other possible stereotypes. We were given the usual arc of the husband being tossed out, living in a motel and then a seedy, dirty bachelor apartment as he sits feeling sorry for himself yet still not fully taking responsibility. The storyline itself and the way it fleshed out as a whole was a bit formulaic. Despite the predictability of the book, it was engrossing and a very emotional read. It was though-provoking in a way not many books of its kind can be and I feel “Love and Other Natural Disasters” by Holly Shumas is a great addition to the genre of women’s fiction.