Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why I Almost Didn't Finish 'You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up: A Love Story' and Why You Should

Midway through comedic team and married couple Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn's book about marriage, I had to put the book down for a break. The book began easily enough; with a meeting, then a courtship (of sorts), a wedding some time later, and finally - a baby. There are books that pack an emotional punch you aren't prepared for; this was one of those.

Gurwitch and Kahn's writing is sardonic and witty. The title offers the first glimpse of the humor found throughout the book. Kahn is an actor and writer who caught his break (I say this in Hollywood-speak, as though he put no work into his career, but instead woke one morning with an agent peering at him, saying, "Hey -- You're my guy!" There was a lot of work put into his career, all detailed in the book, but for the sake of time, I say "caught his break".) while working on The Ben Stiller Show on MTV. Gurwitch you may remember from TBS's long-running Dinner and a Movie series. She has also had guest roles on many television shows, from Seinfield to Boston Legal. So, anyway. Funny people. Perhaps darkly funny is a better description. Between chapters, they like to offer readers statistics and quotes, most of which highlight the downsides to marriage. Some examples:

'Forty percent of women say they have hurled footwear at a man.' - Y. Kaufman, How to Survive Your Marriage (38)

75 percent of suicide attempts are due to relationship problems
11 percent of the murders in the United States are killings by intimates (8)

Data in the 2004 National Population and Family Development Board study in Malaysia revealed that "meddlesome in-laws" are the number one reason why Indian couples get divorced. Ironically, most of these marriages were arranged by the same in-laws who later cause conflict with the spouses they once chose. (172)

But back to the break. I had to pause while reading this book because my heartbreak was simply too great. Not for the marriage; the writers are still happily married, couples therapy and all. But this (and if I had read the inside flap of the book cover carefully, I would have known):

The he-said/she-said chronicle of their intense but loving marriage includes an unsentimental account of the medical odyssey that their family embarked upon after their infant son was diagnosed with VACTERL, a very rare series of birth defects. (Front cover flap)

He was, and they talk about it openly and honestly, and I couldn't handle it. Perhaps it was the recent birth of my only nephew, or perhaps it was because I don't have kids yet but hope to someday... Whatever it was, my emotional reaction to their frank discussion of this part of their lives was devastating. But I eventually picked it back up, finished reading not only that section, but the entire book, and I am so glad I did. For those of you who can't stand to read a sad story: Ezra is now a healthy 11-year-old who plays baseball in two different leagues and on a traveling team. So nothing to fear; no death or familial devastation. Just a story of two parents dealing with some difficult issues and a son who overcame great adversity.

You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up: A Love Story is exactly that -- a love story. An imperfect, real-life love story in which a death in the family interrupts their honeymoon on day two, their child is born with a rare disorder, and couples therapy sessions are transcribed for millions to read. Gurwitch and Kahn may seem to have a negative view on marriage, but in actuality theirs is a view with a healthy understanding of what really happens between two people who vow to "have and to hold until death do us part". Despite that, or perhaps because of it, they have a thriving, loving marriage that has lasted more than a decade. And in a world where there are more remarriages than marriages that survive, that's nothing to throw a tomato at.

The lovely couple, for your viewing (and then reading) pleasure:

1 comment:

  1. Great review that makes me want to read the book for sure! Thanks for the assurance that the story ends well - you know how I am! :)



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