Review: A wise, witty memoir on ‘divine tedium’ of marriage

Feb 7, 2022, 1:48 PM | Updated: 1:54 pm

“Foreverland,” by Heather Havrilesky (Ecco)

Dear AP book reviewer:

I thought I was doing OK with the pandemic, but the recent surge of COVID-19 cases has really got me down. Can you recommend a book to make me laugh? A Depressed Reader.

Dear Depressed Reader:

Have I got a book for you! Heather Havrilesky’s new memoir, “Foreverland: On the Divine Tedium of Marriage,” is a wise, witty, profane, even profound, meditation on her 15-year marriage to a college professor, Bill, who emailed her a fan letter when he read on her blog that she was newly single.

It is also about trying to raise two kids while holding down a full-time job as a TV critic; living in a hipster neighborhood in L.A., then moving to a deeply uncool suburb; toying for longer than feels necessary or comfortable with the idea of cheating on her husband; finding out she has breast cancer — but just a tiny bit of it; and finally, realizing that she and Bill are on the greatest adventure of their lives and will almost certainly be on it until one of them dies. In which case, she notes wryly, the marriage will have been a success.

“Every book about marriage is also a book about mortality, since the success of any marriage is defined not by happiness or good fortune but by death,” she writes in the first chapter. “The assignment, after all, is to stay together until you die. Once one spouse perishes, the marriage has succeeded. Death signals victory.”

Havrilesky has been doling out such acerbic advice online since the dawn of the internet, first on The Rabbit Blog, then in the Ask Polly column, which started on The Awl, migrated to New York magazine and can now be found on Substack. Like all the agony aunts and uncles who preceded her, from Cheryl Strayed and Dear Abby to Miss Manners and Benjamin Franklin, Havrilesky offers up common-sense advice grounded on the principle of being true to yourself but not too much of a jerk.

She has also written three books, including a memoir of growing up in the ’70s; an anthology of advice columns; and a collection of essays. The essay form suits her. Sometimes in this latest book her writing bogs down or turns purple when she tries to link one chapter to the next to propel the story forward. She needn’t have worried. Her voice is so engaging, and her comic timing so impeccable, that she turns the “divine tedium” of her marriage into a rollicking adventure for her readers, too.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


A technician monitors the self-driving taxi developed by tech giant Baidu Inc. on June 14, 2022, in...
Associated Press

China’s Baidu races Waymo, GM to develop self-driving cars

BEIJING (AP) — With no one at the wheel, a self-driving taxi developed by tech giant Baidu Inc. is rolling down a Beijing street when its sensors spot the corner of a delivery cart jutting into its lane. The taxi stops a half-car-length away. “So sorry,” a recorded voice tells passengers. The steering wheel turns […]
20 hours ago
Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testifies as the ...
Associated Press

1/6 Takeaways: Angry Trump, dire legal warnings and ketchup

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Jan. 6 committee held a surprise hearing Tuesday delivering alarming new testimony about Donald Trump’s angry, defiant and vulgar actions as he ignored repeated warnings against summoning the mob to the Capitol and then refused to intervene to stop the deadly violence as rioters laid siege. Witness Cassidy Hutchinson, a […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Ratings show Fox News viewers tuning out Jan. 6 hearings

NEW YORK (AP) — Fox News Channel is airing the Jan. 6 committee hearings when they occur in daytime hours and a striking number of the network’s viewers have made clear they’d rather be doing something else. During two daytime hearings last week, Fox averaged 727,000 viewers, the Nielsen company said. That compares to the […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

California budget won’t cover out-of-state abortion travel

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — While Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged to make California a sanctuary for women seeking abortions, his administration won’t spend public money to help people from other states travel to California for the procedure. Newsom’s decision, included in a budget agreement reached over the weekend, surprised abortion advocates who have been working […]
20 hours ago
FILE - Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, from the Philippines, attends a news conference in O...
Associated Press

Maria Ressa: Philippines affirms news site shutdown order

HONOLULU (AP) — Filipino journalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa announced in a speech in Hawaii Tuesday that the Philippine government is affirming a previous order to shut down Rappler, the news website she co-founded, which has gained notoriety for its reporting of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody crackdown on illegal drugs. The Philippines’ […]
20 hours ago
FILE - Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks during a news conference June 7, 2022, in Ne...
Associated Press

NYC mayor: Investigate Giuliani for ‘false’ slap claim

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City Mayor Eric Adams suggested Tuesday that former Mayor Rudy Giuliani be investigated for filing a false police report for claiming he was assaulted by a heckler who clapped him on the back Sunday at a Staten Island grocery store. “Someone needs to remind former Mayor Giuliani that falsely […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Canvas Annuity

The secret to guaranteed retirement income

Annuities aren’t really a secret, but they are so misunderstood that they might as well be. Once you understand what an annuity is and how it can benefit you, you could decide this “secret” is the perfect supplement to your retirement plan.
Review: A wise, witty memoir on ‘divine tedium’ of marriage