Love, If That's What It Is
by Marijke Schermer
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 01 Feb 2022 | Archive Date 01 Feb 2022
For fans of Marriage Story and Elena Ferrante's Days of Abandonment
Terri runs off with a lover, abandoning her children and her marriage of twenty-five years. Her husband, David, is left to take care of their two daughters, one of whom is falling in love for the first time. These four people start to question their identity outside the nuclear family. What remains of a disintegrated home, and what changes? Marijke Schermer’s Love, If That’s What It Is gives a kaleidoscopic view of a divorce, permitting the reader to enter the heads of not only the spouses, but also of the two daughters and the divorcees’ new lovers. Through several characters, the reader is presented with just as many views on relationships, while Schermer remains impartial and thus confronts readers with their own—perhaps shaky—romantic principles. What is love? With fresh flair and provocative perspectives, Schermer manages to provide an original and versatile answer.
“Love, If That’s What It Is has the potential to become as successful as Herman Koch’s The Dinner.” —De Standaard
“Marijke Schermer flawlessly analyzes how love takes its course.” —Het Parool
“On every page Schermer excels with sentences that seem ordinary, but are packed with meaning. After every striking sentence, I had to put the book down for a while. This book is about love—if that’s what it is, of course—and who has not become love’s victim?” —Trouw
“Schermer’s technical ingenuity traps you, making you question your standards, assumptions, and blind spots. This is a big and definitive, but also investigative, story about love. Schermer is fast becoming one of the most interesting writers in the Netherlands.” —NRC Handelsblad
“Schermer’s fresh style adds something really new to the mountain of stories about falling in love, unhappy marriages, cheating, and heartbreak—she seems to have cleared the dust of the whole theme.” —De Volkskrant
“This novel has just as careful and poetic a style and as precise a construction as her previous two. Schermer effortlessly manages to infect you again with the feelings of the novel’s characters.” —Tzum
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where to start, maybe i can start by saying this was incredible? i knew i was going to like it since its for "the days of abandonment" fans, but oh my god.
in this book we follow the divorce of Terri and David, and all the altercations they have to go through. they ask themselves ¿what does it mean being married? ¿what do we search in a relationship? (+abyss was my favorite chapter ever, that description they did was beautiful). something that i loved was the fact that we could see everyone perspective, a lot of times, focusing in one person leaves us with way too many questions, but the author gave us EVERYTHING. i'm just mesmerized by this and i'm so glad i read this. one of my favorites reads of this year !!
In the description of the book, Schermers' Love, If That's What It Is' is likened to Marriage Story the widely celebrated Netflix drama about the quiet crumbling of a couples marriage. I think this is an apt description. It's not overly dramatic or hysterical; there are times when it is incredibly sad and the adults in the book are frequently frustrating but I feel that that is the way people really are.
The novella begins a few months after Terri leaves her husband David for her affair partner, Lucas. After grieving the end of his marriage for a few months David starts a casual relationship with divorced mother Sev. After decades of marriage and mothering two teenage daughters, Terri decides that she deserves a new life. Schermer's inspiration to write the book came from wanting to explore the question, ' Can you retain your individuality within romantic bonds, can you maintain respect for one another when romance turns into habit?' Schermer does this effectively with multiple character POV's ( mainly Terri and David, but also some perspectives from their new partners) and a series of flashbacks to the weeks leading up to Terri leaving.
Schermer is a strong writer who knows how to flesh out her characters well. I don't think this is the most memorable book ( like I wrote earlier it's a quiet, slice-of-life story) but it's a solid read with good insight into the psyche of two people who have fallen out of love with their relationship.
** Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an ARC**
They have been married for 25 years but now, Terri fells like suffocating. She can no longer go on being the housewife in the suburbs whose daily routines have been the same for decades and who has lost all individuality. When she meets Lucas, she falls for him and leaves her husband David. Neither he nor their two daughters Ally and Karla can understand Terri’s behaviour. While Terri finds the second love – if that’s what it is since it does not actually go far beyond bodily desires – her eldest daughter finds her first love. David and Ally need more time to adjust to the new situation, but they two learn that another life is possible.
Marijke Schermer cleverly composes her novel to show quite different types of love. On the one hand, there is the reliable love that has been formed during years of marriage, where the partners know each other with all their weaknesses and have formed dependable routines. On the other hand, Terri lives an ecstatic love with Lucas which does mainly focus on bodily needs but not on getting to know the other’s character. Love within the family - which should be something you can trust on and which deeply disappoints if this is not the case – the first love with butterflies in the stomach and the love between those who have already loved, have been disappointed and not in the middle of their age, approach the concept with reluctance.
I liked the interchange of the different perspectives which are cleverly linked within the story. We often get the same moment first from one then from another character’s perspective thus outlining how they might differ in the assessment of the situation and also showing the different expectations they have.
Interestingly, I can easily understand Terri’s feeling of suffocating and wanting to break out of her life after so many years of only following routines, of feeling like having lost her self and being stuck in a dead-end. David’s perspective, too, is easy to follow. He and Terri have been a team, their family is their common endeavour, she cannot just stand up and go! For him, all was fine up to that moment and thus, he is totally surprised by his wife’s move. For the girls, the situation is hardest, family is the concept they have known and even though they have been confronted with separations and divorces this has been something that happened to others but not to them. How can they experience something like the first love when love can hurt so much?
A wonderfully written novel, right out of life which I totally enjoyed reading.
(3.5) Thank you to the author and publisher for the chance to read this in exchange for an honest review.
This is definitely a novel that will be interpreted differently depending on your bias and opinion on each character. The story explores the grueling aftermath of the breakdown of a marriage after Terri leaves her husband and their two daughters after 25 years. It gives you the chance to explore the vulnerability and emotional response of multiple characters in the aftermath of Terri leaving David for Lucas, and how identity exists and operates, both within and outside of the nuclear family. If you enjoyed Marriage Story (2019) you may enjoy this book because it reminded me a lot of the film as I was reading, but with the added complexity of multiple viewpoints. The story is messy in parts, but this may have been intentional. Ally's loneliness stuck with me the most.
I enjoyed reading this one as it was similar to Marriage Story on Netflix which I highly enjoyed.
Terri runs off with a lover, abandoning her children and her marriage of twenty-five years. Her husband, David, is left to take care of their two daughters, one of whom is falling in love for the first time. These four people start to question their identity outside the nuclear family. What remains of a disintegrated home, and what changes?
I love reading about different family dynamics as it is so prevalent in today’s society. It was very interesting hearing the different side/stories of the different people featured in this novel and what family is like outside a normal nuclear type dynamic and how it affects us and changes us.
I feel bad for stopping, especially as I'm not far in, but it just doesn't work for me. I loved the idea of having the points of view of the children, the spouses and the lovers, but I got lost because of the writing. Each time the POV changed, I had to re-read the previous lines to realize we switched characters. I thought I'd get used to it... but no.
On top of that, I couldn't fathom where the story was going. Towards healing (David)? Discovery (the eldest daughter)? Reversed betrayal (Terri)? Or was it simply stating the current situation, without letting us take a peek at the characters' future? I was too early in the book to get the full picture, so it's hard to guess. But I still felt like the book had no purpose. Maybe it just wasn't for me...
[I also stopped because I was happy discovering Terri's lover was actually cheating on her (and didn't love her, at all), which wasn't a very sane sentiment. So, as I didn't feel connected to any of the other characters, I decided to let go...
Told from four peoples’ perspective, the mother/wife Terri who leaves her family; her husband and two children this is an ambitious book which I enjoyed but didnt love. As with many kaleidoscopic works, it’s easier to care about some characters than others and often a change in perspective is accompanied by a longing to be back with another protagonist.
Very glad to have had the opportunity to read and it has stayed in my imagination.
Terri leaves her husband David and their two daughters for Lucas. The twenty five years of marriage comes to an end after two years of Terri feeling nothing towards the life that she was leading. Schermer lets her readers spend a year post breakdown with the characters, their children and their lovers.
Every character finds themselves exposed to vulnerability in a way they didn't anticipate. There is anger, loneliness, desperation, arguments, plenty conversations that go everywhere and nowhere (which, to be fair, is expected) and David finds himself in a new relationship as well. With the change their mother triggered, the daughters deal with the way young adolescent girls would - the elder one rebels while the younger one isolates. The new relationships pose new challenges to the already shaky dynamics and by the end of the book they are all at different stages in their lives - something new, something ending, something broken, like life constantly changing.
Wanted to like this more. The book was confusing.
Thanks to author, publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free, it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.
Marijke Schermer’s Love, If That’s What It Is tells the story of the breakdown of Terri and David’s twenty-five-year marriage from the perspectives of themselves, their lovers and their children over the course of a year or so.
Terri walks out on her husband and children leaving David devastated. She has a lover but insists that Lucas is not the cause but the catalyst. Their two children want them to stop rowing: fifteen-year-old Krista, caught up in her own crush, is disgusted by the sex text she finds on her mother’s phone while Ally is left contemplating the cuddly toys she knows she’s outgrown and trying to cope with her loneliness. David finds himself a lover online, excited by Sev’s liberated attitude towards relationships and sex, but still trying to understand how things have gone so badly wrong in his marriage. By the end of the novel a messy kind of resolution is reached.
Misunderstandings, hurt, puzzlement and occasional moments of happiness abound in this immersive, absorbing novel. Overarching it all, as the title suggests, is the question what is love? Writing with great empathy and compassion, Schermer is unafraid to let her characters seem unsympathetic at times and there’s the odd flash of humour running through her quietly powerful, often very subtle book, expertly translated by Hester Velmans. Highly recommended.
Schermer's "Love, if that is what it is" is about all facets of love, however, I could not really sympathize with the characters, whilst the forms of love emphasized were on the unattainable side of the spectrum. Although I expected some philosophical musings about love, the novel reads quickl.y.