Rules of Engagement: Four Couples and American Marriage Today

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9780684825274: Rules of Engagement: Four Couples and American Marriage Today

In this provocative new book, the acclaimed author of Holy Days, Lis Harris, offers a fascinating look at the institution of marriage: how it is changing, what it may yet become. Rules of Engagement follows the trials and triumphs of four very real couples:
-- upper-class Sarah and Eaton, whose 1950s marriage has been transformed in the wake of feminism;
-- working-class Mike and Claire, who have struggled through multiple separations and reconciliations in their common-law marriage;
-- middle-class African-Americans Carlita and Samuel, striving to succeed with their two young children in an often hostile world;
-- and middle-aged Neal and Vera, idealists whose relationship has survived an experiment with "open marriage."

From these four couples, Harris draws invaluable lessons about relationships in general and about the unique nature of American marriage, an institution that continues to thrive in an ever-changing world because of our willingness to experiment with and reinvent it.

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From Booklist:

Harris is able to insinuate herself into people's lives and then describe them succinctly and insightfully. A New Yorker staff writer whose first book was about Hasidic life, Harris decided to write about contemporary marriage to see how that most basic of human units has fared in light of the changes the women's movement has wrought. Harris, who must be easy to talk to (she's certainly a pleasure to read), found four couples willing to share their private selves: the McLanes, an upper-class couple; the Robbins, a blue-collar couple; the Jacksons, a middle-class African American couple; and the Clarks, the most egalitarian and artistic of the bunch. Each couple's story is compelling, as true stories always are. Harris manages to cover family histories, courtship, sex, money issues, arguments, children, and housework. What emerges from these intriguing anatomies of marriages is that the improved status of women has changed marriage for the better and that people work "terribly hard all the time" both at their jobs and at their relationships. Donna Seaman

From Publishers Weekly:

Harris (Holy Days: The World of a Hasidic Family), a staff writer at the New Yorker, presents four couples as representing varieties of American marriage in the late 20th century, though four couples can hardly stand for all marriages. Over several years, she consorted with an upper-class couple in New York City, a middle-class African American couple, a blue-collar couple and a couple best described as determinedly bohemian. Being privy to these vastly differing marriages allowed Harris to draw interesting, even entertaining conclusions. For instance, all four couples agreed that none of them was prepared for the reality of marital life (who is?). In a pleasing anecdotal style, especially with the story of the upper-class pair, the author conveys her respect for the eight people who allowed her into their lives, as well as her appreciation for marriage as an institution that, however challenged, is still viable.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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