Book Review: Mating for Life

Mating for Life by Marissa Shapley

Sometimes I write about relationships – with my kids, my friends, my family, my husband. I talk about how love, friendship, partnership and the like are complicated, how they change through time, how they take work and flexibility.


I also like reading books about relationships. Not advice books, but rather novels. Stories obviously drawn from real life that explore the varied nature of how people love, lose, grow, change and get along. Just like most incurable romantics (and probably why I love romance novels so much), I like to think that there’s always a happy ending to everyone’s story.

But of course, that can’t always be. People can’t always work things out.


What we forget though, is that happy endings might look different than those we think we want or that we’d expect. A marriage ends but a person finds fulfillment in their new life. A loved ones dies but those they leave behind find solace in the memories and life they shared. A couple loses sight of each other only to find that absence does clear the fog and make the heart grow fonder.


The potential for the right endings not just the expected ones  make up the foundation for a wonderful new novel, Mating for Life, from Marissa Stapley. 


With pitch-perfect honesty and heartwarming humor, this captivating debut explores marriage, motherhood, identity, and what it takes to love someone—family members, friends, or spouses—for life.

Former folk singer Helen Sear was a feminist wild child who proudly disdained monogamy, raising three daughters—each by a different father—largely on her own. Now in her sixties, Helen has fallen in love with a traditional man who desperately wants to marry her. And while she fears losing him, she’s equally afraid of abandoning everything she’s ever stood for if she goes through with it.

Meanwhile, Helen’s youngest daughter, Liane, is in the heady early days of a relationship with her soul mate. But he has an ex-wife and two kids, and her new role as a “step-something” doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Ilsa, an artist, has put her bohemian past behind her and is fervently hoping her second marriage will stick. Yet her world feels like it is slowly shrinking, and her painting is suffering as a result—and she realizes she may need to break free again, even if it means disrupting the lives of her two young children. And then there’s Fiona, the eldest sister, who has worked tirelessly to make her world pristine, yet who still doesn’t feel at peace. When she discovers her husband has been harboring a huge secret, Fiona loses her tenuous grip on happiness and is forced to face some truths about herself that she’d rather keep buried. 

This novel is so multi-faceted as it interweaves the stories and perspective of Helen and her daughters that you’ll find yourself relating to it on so many different levels. If you have sisters, you might be touched by the sometimes contentious (yet also completely absorbed) connection between Liane, Fiona, and Ilsa. If you’re a mother, you might understand the dichotomy between the need to retain your sense of self while being consumed by parenting. If you’re a wife you’ll connect with the need for honesty and passion in a relationship. If you’ve ever fallen in love (I sincerely hope you have), you’ll get the inability to get that person out of your head until you’re with them.


Mating for Life really tells a story that a you’ll experience in an inordinately personal way.


The only negative that I can note is that the beginning is a little slow, but if you persevere beyond the first 30 pages you won’t be sorry.


Written with frank and unadorned prose, and through the voices of the women in the story, Mating for Life helps us see that sometimes life hurts, that our path isn’t always as clear as it seems, but that if you open your heart and let yourself in, you could just find yourself landing where you’re meant to be.


This novel would be great for generating great conversation at your next book club meeting or to snuggle up with on Muskoka chair. Leave time and bring a blanket. You won’t want to put it down.


Untputdownable Factor:  8/10


Recommend Factor: 8/10


Will you read it?



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