The Marriage Pact follows a rock-star turned attorney Alice and her newlywed husband Jake. Jake is a therapist who has just opened a practice with two partners. The newlywed couple receives a wedding gift from Alice’s elite client to join a pact that has been promoted as a society to aid them in having an everlasting marriage. The couple is initially wooed by this along with luxurious parties and meeting other seemingly like-minded couples and proceed to join The Pact. Jake and Alice soon discover there is more than meets the eye with this lavish society but are already in too deep to renege.
The Pact is a contract that sets out rules that married couples should follow to ensure that their union stands the test of time. Rules include: always answering your spouse’s phone calls and buying your spouse a gift every month. At first these rules seem easy to oblige because they seem somewhat inherent in the nature of marriage. The rules are followed by a list of punishments for those who fail satisfy the requirements of the pact. Alice and Jake make light of these stipulations until they realise the extent to which The Pact will go to enforce these rules and the severity of the punishments for those that go against them.
Let me just start by saying this book gave me chills with almost every page I read. Michelle Richmond was able to deliver a narrative that was both exciting and unsettling especially in the last few moments of the book. I found myself heavily invested in Jake and Alice’s wellbeing and tried to figure out what would happen next, what sort of hell The Pact will unleash and what the motives of the characters in this book are.
The exciting part of this novel is in not knowing. We of cause know that The Pact is incredibly sketchy and that this society follows guidelines that stray from the norm. What keeps you reading is not knowing how these guidelines and punishments will manifest. You know that something eerie is about to happen but there is no way of accurately theorizing how and in some instances… why.
When we are introduced to Alice and Jake, they honestly appear as a picture perfect couple. They have adorable and effortless habits such as eating pastries together in the morning and watching their favourite show, Sloganeering, together in the evening while they eat dinner. They don’t strike me as a couple that places too much value on possessions as much as on the time they spend together. This is where I knew The Pact would not be fitting to them because it seems to be tailored to one type of couple and every relationship dynamic is different.
As their membership within The Pact continues, their habits are altered by the pressure of this society to be a textbook perfect couple. As a reader you can see their habits becoming more forced and somewhat tedious which is one more indication of how deeply disconcerting The Pact is. The Pact eerily takes away from the authenticity of the people in a marriage and you could see Alice and Jake’s becoming more scripted and robotic although they redeem themselves in the end.
Once you read this book, the word “friend” will never sound the same to you. Pact members call each other friend and it comes off in a sinister, unsettling way. Friends, by principle, are supposed to have your best interests at heart but these friends’ only seek to serve The Pact and make sure it manifests in your life. When Alice and Jake are around Pact members they feel very uneasy because any ‘wrong’ behaviour on their part will “mysteriously” be reported to The Pact so that ramifications are faced. There’s constant pressure to be very mindful of what is said because at any moment anything can be used against them.
This book is incredibly sinister but even in the parts that are eccentric, as a reader you’re interested in exploring the odd concepts. I think if everything was set in a ‘normal’ world with normal punishments it would take away from the eeriness of Michelle Richmond’s writing and the eeriness is what keeps you turning the page.
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Peace x Love.