Book review: ‘Average American Marriage’ by Chad Kultgen

Associated PressMarch 2, 2013 

  • Fiction The Average American Marriage Chad Kultgen

    Harper Perennial, 256 pages

If you are looking for profanity, “The Average American Marriage: A Novel” offers it in abundance. If you want a narrator’s undying obsession with sex and frequent graphic depictions of it, here it is. If it’s an easy, entertaining read you’re in search of, here it is. If, however, you’re in search of a happy ending, turn away.

The latest offering from Chad Kultgen gives perhaps the grimmest view of marriage since “Revolutionary Road” graced theaters.

The narrator, who has graduated from his single life in Kultgen’s debut novel, offers a glimpse of misery in every facet of his life. He despises his wife and her “hideously disfigured” anatomy, hates his job so much that lengthy trips to the bathroom are the highlight of his day, and speaks with disdain of his children in a way reminiscent of Louis CK.

Though he doesn’t come close to meeting the comedian’s level of humor, his manifestations of misery are frequently funny, from the way he wishes he were dead at a child’s birthday party to the comparisons of his wife’s bedroom dance to that of “the worst strippers I can remember seeing in places like Reseda and Torrance.”

Each moment in life, the character believes, is worse than the last, with midlife bringing a slow, painful march to death. The only escape from the malaise is the character’s obsession with a college intern at his office, the main driving force in the plot and the thing that ultimately puts the future of a marriage in doubt.

Despite its dark view of life and dialogue that often seems stilted, many readers, or men at least, will enjoy the ride. Think “50 Shades of Grey” for the 30-something male. It is crass, lewd and politically incorrect, but also mindlessly fun and engaging. Just don’t read it if you’re thinking about walking down the aisle.

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