First of all, I need to give a shout out to my friend Jennee Thompson. I'm sorry I missed the Suess blogfest! I planned on posting and my mind went blank absent of rhymes.
Now for The Vow. This is going to be a weird review for a couple of reasons. I can't really talk about this one without talking about the movie, because it's non-fiction, and I would have never read it if I didn't think the movie was compelling but could be better. I don't read non-fiction, but I picked this book up thinking it would be better than the movie. Wrong. And I want to apologize in advance to the Carpenters as this won't be a five star review. I couldn't decide whether I should review this or not, because it's a true story, and I don't want to offend anyone. But I've checked the amazon reviews and my thoughts seem to be on par with a lot of people's.
The Carpenters are in a car wreck the day before Thanksgiving which leaves Krickitt in a coma. The movie opens up here. The book starts a year and a half earlier. The problem is this is the inciting incident. I know it's non-fiction, but I've read memoirs need to be as compelling as a novel. The story starts here. Another difference is that the movie moves pretty quickly from the car accident to her trying to rebuild her life. The book spends way too long on the details of her hospitalization and recovery.
The thing that surprised me is even though this is a memoir and the movie is fiction, I found the movie more believable in many aspects than the book. The couple were basically pen-pals for the first year of their relationship. They met in person 2 months before they got married and were only married 10 weeks before the accident. It then took a year and a half after the accident for them to rebuild any sort of relationship worth having. I know it's true, and I don't doubt it did happen, but there wasn't enough relationship building in the book to make me believe it as I read it. A couple of other things bothered me about the book. For example, I found the characters in the movie easier to relate to. Now, it's true an over-achiever who finally drops out of law school to do something artsy and takes crap from the whole family for it hits close to home for me, but I just felt the characters in the movie were more well rounded. (I'm not in any way implying that the Carpenters are not well-rounded individuals, just that you don't get that from the book).
Part of the reason I chose this book was because I caught part of an interview with the couple where they said they liked the movie but wish it paid more attention to the role their faith played in staying married. I find lots of expectations when writing and lots of things available for reading to be anti-faith. I thought I'd give this a try. I think the fundamental problem is that it's too much the other way. Rather than building characters (which should be easy to do--the writer knows these people) and building relationships, the writer spends the majority of every page in excerpts from prayer journals. If he really felt it was necessary one or two excerpts for examples would have been fine, but this book reads more like a list of events squeezed between prayers than a story. And I don't know that the overtness makes God's role more apparent to the story. If you're going to have massive head trauma and memory loss, Krickitt Carpenter's situation is the ideal way to do it. They had lots of really supportive family and friends. Her family wanted them to stay together. Had they taken advantage of her memory loss the way Paige's family in the movie did, I'm not sure this couple would have made it. In spite of having a family that wanted to get rid of her husband and not being able to remember who he was, Paige still ended up where she was supposed to be. When she dropped out of law school the second time for the same reason, I just thought, "Wow, you always end up where you're supposed to be. All roads lead to the same place." If I didn't believe in God, I'd have to call it fate. Then she ends up with her husband again. I actually found that more amazing than being able to stay together with lots of encouragement and support. And it's kind of reflective of life too. We make bad or dumb decisions from time to time. It's called being human, but years later when I look back on it, I often find that had I gone another route I'd still end up where I am today.