The Forever Marriage

By Ann Bauer

(Overlook Press, $25.95, 320 pages)

Who is this author?

Ann Bauer’s first novel was marvelously titled “A Wild Ride up the Cupboards.” She also co-wrote a culinary memoir called “Damn Good Food.’ Based in Minneapolis, she has contributed essays to The New York Times, The Washington Post, Elle and Redbook, and the online magazine, Salon. Visit, where you can learn more about her, such as this excerpt:

“I’m a writer. It’s all I do—all I’ve ever done—because it’s the only thing I’m good at. People assume I’m making a joke when I say that. I’m not. I don’t knit, decorate, garden, draw, run marathons or ski. I have no sense of direction. I can’t even hem my own pants; and I’m 5-foot-3, so they always need hemming. I write because it’s how I think.”

What is this book about?

Tolstoy famously told us that “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” and Ann Bauer shows us why he was right in this nicely crafted novel about a long and unhappy marriage and its surprising aftermath. In it, passionate and discontented Carmen marries stolid and brilliant Jobe and finds herself spending years longing for freedom, which finally comes at great cost through his death from lymphoma. And then, to her great shock, she finds that she really misses him. And that she herself has breast cancer. This is a “be careful what you wish for” story, but also a penetrating look at the mystery of love and longing.

Why you’ll like it:

Carmen is not your typical women’s novel heroine: she’s an unfaithful wife, unhappy and unsatisfied with being a mother. But she is an honest and compelling character as well, and Bauer makes sure that she tells us frankly what she feels, what she has done wrong and what she still hopes to achieve. She’s prickly and contrary, but Carmen is a creation you will not soon forget.

What others are saying:

Publishers Weekly says: “With quiet power, Bauer explores the isolation, betrayal, duty, and, finally, compassion that constitute an unhappy marriage. When Carmen Garrett’s husband, Jobe, dies, she finally feels the reprieve she’s spent her 21-year marriage waiting for. She and Jobe had been profoundly ill-suited: Jobe, a solemn and awkward math prodigy, had been intimidated by the potency of Carmen’s desires, while Carmen had been bound to Jobe by gratitude and obligation rather than love. Carmen—an unfaithful wife and the loving but resentful mother of three children—is an unlikely sympathetic figure, yet she is unsparingly, at times laceratingly, candid about her own shortcomings, and is disoriented by the loss she feels for a man she has spent her adult life wishing away. …With lovely prose and fine pacing, Bauer …offers a sensitive portrait of a flawed woman coming to terms with a lifetime of regrets.”

“..When Jobe dies of cancer after 21 years of marriage, Carmen thinks she will finally feel free. But widowhood and single parenthood are more complicated than she’d expected. In many ways, Carmen misses Jobe. When her lover, reference librarian Danny, finds a lump in Carmen’s breast, her own battle with cancer begins. A subplot involving Jobe’s lifelong quest to solve a mathematical theorem adds variety to this highly emotional novel… Bauer..deftly draws all the characters. Love or hate Carmen, readers won’t soon forget the hot-blooded woman, and fans of Elizabeth Berg will want to meet her,” says Library Journal.

“Bauer’s second novel offers an introspective study of a woman as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Narcissistic Carmen Garrett is newly widowed. Married to her brilliant husband, Jobe, for more than 20 years, she has been waiting for him to die so that she can begin to live her life. …  But the diagnosis of her own life-threatening illness causes Carmen to closely examine the choices and the emotions that have shaped her marriage and her life. As she faces her own mortality, she must also face her past. At times dispassionate and self-absorbed and at other times emotional and selfless, Carmen follows a path of self-discovery that is often painful, poignant and undeniably real. Bauer crafts an insightful story that is uncomfortable and bleak, but well-written. It’s a journey well worth taking,” says Kirkus Reviews.

When is it available?

It’s on the shelves now at the Downtown Hartford Public Library and the Campfield and Ropkins branches.

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