Thursday, August 1, 2019

Review: Plus One by Christopher Noxon

Despite the improvements we've made, we as a society still tend to think of the husband as the breadwinner in the family. He is the one who brings home the bacon. His career has priority if both spouses work. And if anyone is going to stay at home with the kids, it is the wife. Now, this is not, of course, universally true, and I personally know several marriages where this is not the dynamic, but it is still the prevailing view in society for sure. We somehow equate the woman making more money than her spouse as somehow emasculating to her partner so it's interesting to read a novel where the very premise is that of a wife who hits the big time while her husband chooses to quit his job and stay at home with their children, taking over the domestic home front, as is the case in Christopher Noxon's novel Plus One.

Figgy Sherman-Zicklin is a TV writer who has hit the big time. She's won an Emmy while her husband Alex has quit his job writing advertising copy for a non-profit in order to stay home and pick up the slack now that Figgy is working at all hours and barely has time to participate in family life. This makes Alex Figgy's "plus one," a stay at home dad whose wife is far more successful than he is. And it's not easy to be a plus one anywhere but it seems to be especially hard to be one in Hollywood. No one knows or cares who he is while the sudden spotlight of success shines brightly on Figgy. Both Alex and Figgy have to adjust to their new roles and Alex in particular really struggles with defining himself now. He watches the other plus one husbands around him for ideas but rejecting their roles leaves him rather adrift. The question becomes whether Figgy and Alex, their family and their marriage, will survive this change in circumstance.

Noxon knows of what he writes, married to a successful television writer himself. His Alex is funny and insecure, frustrating and entertaining. Figgy is capable and smart, driven and pragmatic. They make a good pair, until they don't; or maybe they still do and they just have to figure it all out. The way that they examine and renegotiate their relationship is realistic and universal, so similar to the way that all long time marriages expand, grow, and change. The gentle mocking of the Hollywood lifestyle is well done and there is a good bit of humor woven through the novel. Alex's struggles might not be easy to be overly sympathetic to but he is just as trapped by societal norms as any good little housewife so his rebellion, while frustrating, is completely understandable. Over the long haul, the Sherman-Zicklin marriage, whether in danger or just readjusting, is fun to peek in on and the end of the novel is a gem. You'll root for Alex to find his purpose and for Figgy to find a balance. This novel is a happily satisfying look at love, parenting, marriage, and power in Hollywood.

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers for sending me a copy of this book to review.

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