A review copy of this book was provided by St Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.
When St Martin’s approached me about reading Been There, Married That, I was thrilled. The summary made it sound like a combo of the movie It’s Complicated and the show The Real Housewives of Orange County – a gorgeous mix of luxury, drama and divorce. Unfortunately, Been There, Married That fell flat for me because of a mix of pacing, characterization, and writing style issues.
When he changes the locks, she changes the rules.
Agnes Murphy Nash is the perfect Hollywood wife – she has the right friends, the right clothes, and even a side career of her own as a writer. Her husband Trevor is a bigshot producer, and from the outside it looks like they’re living a picture-perfect celebrity life, complete with tennis tournaments and lavish parties.
But the job description of a Hollywood wife doesn’t cover divorce, which is the way Agnes’ life is headed after she comes home one day to find her credit cards cancelled and the security passwords to get into her enormous LA home changed. Oh, and there’s a guy there whose job it is to tase her if she tries to enter…which she does.
Needless to say, Agnes’ husband is dead set on making sure she loses big time, but Agnes isn’t the type to just lie down and take it. In a world of fremenies and hot nannies, personal psychics and “skinny” jello shots, Agnes may be losing her husband, but could that mean getting her own life back?
The pacing was really disjointed in this book – most of the scenes felt short and a lot of them didn’t contribute to the plot at all. The transition between scenes was often pretty jarring – the book would jump from a conversation between Agnes (the main character) and her house staff to a scene of her being tased while trying to come home. The other major pacing issue was how the divorce proceedings went – they would be in a lull and then go 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye. They also wrapped up in an equally strange way – the ending was sort of a non-ending that didn’t offer a ton of resolution.
One thing I wasn’t expecting was the amount of humor in the book – the narrator was constantly skewering the people around her, cracking jokes about the situation she was in and sharing her internal witticisms. Unfortunately, none of her jokes really landed for me. Often, it felt like Agnes’ attempts at humor was just her being cruel and judgmental of the people around her – which really damaged her character and likability. The constant barrage of attempts at humor and witty remarks also really took away any gravitas and seriousness that the plot had. Throughout this book I kept waiting for an emotional, grounding moment to happen. Emotionally important moments felt cheap because the jokes never let up. With all the over the top drama and antics, this book desperately needed to ground itself – it’s a book about divorce and two people trying to destroy each others lives after all.
Pretty much all the characters in this book suffered from a lack of definition. Further – most of them were just plain unlikeable. Agnes was cruel to the people around her and intensely judgmental – she drove me up the wall. There was nothing likable about her – she was cruel to the people in her life who supported her, she never took anything seriously, and worst of all – she just accepted all the torture Trevor put her through. I understand there was a huge power and wealth imbalance, but it was crazy to me that she never did anything to fight back. Trevor was an enormous jerk – but that was the point of his character. Was her one dimensional? Yes. But did it work in the context of this book? Yes. Trevor and Agnes’ relationship made no sense to me – they went from hot to cold very quickly – they went from cohabitating and married to Trevor assassinating Agnes’ character and getting her tased a few days later.
Pep (Agnes’ daughter) was pretty much a non issue and was more or less just a pawn in Agnes and Trevor’s divorce. The one character I did like was Fin, Agnes’ sister – she was spontaneous and unexpected, and brought a reality to the book that I really appreciated. She often helped Agnes in situations and felt the most realistic of all the characters.
The concept was interesting, but the lack of heart and soul in this book is really what prevented me from getting invested in and enjoying this book. The characters were just too exaggerated all the time, and it got tiring and repetitive. Paired with the disappointing ending, this book just really didn’t work for me. If you’re very into the Hollywood scene and love reading tabloids, this book might be a good book for you. 1/5