Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Vow by Wendy Plump

Vow is a memoir of adultery and the destruction of a marriage.  Wendy met Bill in college and they married in their late twenties, only to see their marriage eventually destroyed by a string of affairs on both sides.  Vow is an honest account of these affairs, focusing mainly on Bill's final affair, the one that led to their relationship breaking up for good.  Wendy is the first to commit adultery, conducting three affairs before the birth of their first child.  They manage to move on from these and from two affairs on Bill's side, but the revelation that Bill's final affair is not in fact over and that there is now a child involved is the final straw for their relationship and Wendy must try to move forward with her life.

I was very interested to read this book as I'm still early on in my own marriage.  My husband and I have been together for almost ten years (this September!) but have only been married for just under two.  We're lucky to have a strong, trusting and supportive relationship but I know from those around me how quickly that can be destroyed when trust is gone.  Adultery is very common, but it's one of those taboo subjects that no one seems to talk about. So I was attracted to a book about it, to read an honest portrayal of what it is like from both sides of the fence.

And Vow certainly was honest.  Plump writes with honesty even when she is in the wrong, even when it might turn the reader against her.  Her first affair comes to light by her confession to her husband and Plump writes in detail about this scene.  After describing his total shock and rage, she complains about his anger as that made her feel bad.  It's hard to feel sympathy with her at this point but that's one of the strengths of this memoir; it's not sugar coated. In fact, my feelings towards Plump remained ambiguous throughout.  It was clear to me that their relationship was lacking even before the affairs started and I did feel very sorry for her in the sections dealing with her response to her husband fathering another child and installing the 'other woman' in a house of her own, but at the same time I was frustrated by her inability to think of the consequences, to chase adrenaline but then not want to face up to the aftermath.  But I guess marital breakdown is like that - there are no easy answers.

Another strength of Vow was the surprisingly good writing.  I was expecting honesty from the book, but I wasn't expecting writing this good.  The whole text flows and Plump manages to tell her story non-chronologically in a way that isn't confusing at all.  At times the writing veers on the poetic with some poignant descriptions of emotions.  I particularly liked her husband nailed to the spot by "the blade of truth" and the following;

"driving home from that meeting, I felt as if someone had switched on a set of beaters in my stomach and blended my organs all to hell."

Vow isn't a book to read if you want answers to the question of extra-marital affairs.  The only advice Plump offers is to appreciate the beauty in the everyday comfort rather than allowing your relationship to become stuck and boring.  It's a highly personal case study, but it did make me think about my own marriage and reflect on the way we choose to live our lives.  I'd definitely recommend it, but don't expect any easy answers.

Source: From the publisher, via Netgalley
Published: 2013
Score: 4 out of 5


  1. I don't know . . . Both of them having multiple affairs sounds to me like neither of them actually *want* to be married in the first place. Perhaps they should go back to being single.

    1. I think she did want to be with her husband, Trish. I think that there were no easy/simple answers.

  2. Probably not my type of read but perhaps it was cathartic for the author. Apparently divorce rates are on the decrease but this is mostly due to falling rates in marriage and the recession....

    1. I wonder about those falling rates of marriage - is it just because people are getting married later than in the past? I got married at 25 and this was considered way too young by most of my friends!

  3. sounds like an interesting read. I tend to get angry with characters in books who cheat, but I guess in this case they are both at fault. It's always good to think about our own relationships, even if they are (thankfully) miles away from the one you describe here!

  4. This sounds like it could be quite a vicarious thrill..if that makes sense? I think I'd like to read this one :)

  5. Very interesting, how reading Vow led you to contemplate your own marriage. Exactly what good literature & memoir writing should do. It is so, so, SO easy to point a finger and say "I would never do that!" and judge, but the thing I love about being patient in reading and/or hearing someone else's story is that we often realize how there are no easy answers. Sometimes life just sucks and you make big mistakes!

    I don't know how often you watch movies, but the theme of this book (examining dysfunction in marriage) reminds me of a strange (very offbeat) movie I saw a while ago called Flannel Pajamas. It was about a young couple who meet on a blind date, fall in love & get married, but after a short time the marriage begins to unravel. And even though it made me sad and my heart broke for them, strangely I was inspired by the way their story provoked me to examine my own marriage... much like the way Vow did for you.

    Thanks for this review. I might have to check Vow out. :)