Josh & Anna and Gabe & Claire is like an episode of Friends — the one where everyone pretends to be happy. Eliza Freed revisits matrimonial mayhem, except in this telling there is no laugh track, but it is moving nonetheless. What is so interesting about old marrieds? Nothing according to my single friends, but that’s a lie. There’s something intriguingly voyeuristic about looking behind the public facade of married couples.
Josh and Anna and Gabe and Claire are the perfect couples. They have the perfect house, perfect job, and perfect life. Josh and Anna are on the cusp of babydom while Gabe and Claire are still focused on having a good time. The guys are best buds, and the ladies are BFFs. Of course, things are not so simple, nor so perfect. Both couples experience growing pains, and at least one member of each unit has some misgivings. The friendships are strong until they aren’t, leaving everyone scattered. Told in alternating POVs, it has a definitive he said; she said feel that somehow isn’t repetitious. However, the characters do feel familiar. There’s the sweet and earnest one, the bitchy insecure one, the distant and emotionally absent one, and the amicable, solid one. Some of them grow, and some of them are stuck in time. There’s also jealousy, unrequited feelings, loss, longing, and a whole lot of coveting, of the biblical variety. Yes, a little taboo tableau brings the intrigue and the titillation along with a heavy dose of heartbreaking reality. A change of scenery and a change of heart at that point are not unexpected, but the emotions are. What should have been wretched and raw felt too perfunctory at times, given the circumstances. However, this does not take away from the sexy and sensual. Boring married sex? Not here, especially if it’s not necessarily with your spouse.
However, there is one character that is not as fully fleshed out like the others. While Josh gets first billing in the title, he is last on the list when depth of character was handed out. He doesn’t have a voice. He is only seen through the eyes of others. Consequently, Josh is stuck marking time instead of making an impression. Because Josh doesn’t have the punch of the other characters, it leaves more questions than answers. You are left to wonder if perhaps the sweet one is not as Pollyanna as first expected as there are glimpses of ruthlessness that hint at s. Still, the HEA is nice even if it leaves a few loose ends.
Trainwrecks are tragic because they’re unexpected. This story is worse because you can sense the wreck coming, but can do nothing to stop it. The storytelling is strong, the tone, raw and seductive. It zings when you’re expecting a zag. The main protagonists are believable, relatable, and inviting. What makes the story so fascinating isn’t just the authenticity of marriage, but the quiet moments that we’ve all experienced where we question if we are on the right path, with the right person, doing the right thing. Simple romance? Hardly. Josh & Anna and Gabe & Claire is as compelling as it is complex.
About the Author
Eliza Freed graduated from Rutgers University and returned to her hometown in rural South Jersey. Her mother encouraged her to take some time and find herself. After three months of searching, she began to bounce checks and her neighbors began to talk; her mother told her to find a job.
She settled into Corporate America, learning systems and practices and the bureaucracy that slows them. Eliza quickly discovered her creativity and gift for story telling as a corporate trainer and spent years perfecting her presentation skills and studying diversity. It’s during this time she became an avid observer of the characters we meet and the heartaches we endure. Her years of study have taught her laughter is the key to survival, even when it’s completely inappropriate.
She currently lives in New Jersey with her family and a misbehaving beagle named Odin. An avid swimmer, if Eliza is not with her family and friends, she’d rather be underwater. While she enjoys many genres, she has always been a sucker for a love story…the more screwed up the better.
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