They met when Julia was an edgy East Village girl who wrote music reviews for the Village Voice and threw parties in a gritty downtown loft, and when Joe was a shy, awkward drama student who followed her around like a lovesick puppy.
Years later, in the midst of this wonderful life, the two are attending a dinner and enjoying the kudos Joe is receiving as a famous star on a popular TV series, including a Golden Globe nomination. Julia’s early promise has not been realized, and she finds herself without any purpose except as a housewife and mother and an accessory in her husband’s life. The slight empty feeling has no justification, she tells herself, even as she reminds herself how lucky she is. But on that fateful night, she picks up Joe’s phone to check messages, thinking it’s her own phone, and hears the sultry, sexy voicemail message from a mystery woman.
Over the next part of the story, we suffer, along with Julia, as she slides from one emotion to the next, landing squarely in the land of ambivalence, where she creates rationalizations to explain everything away. But then, finally, she turns to obsessive, almost stalker-like behavior as she tries to make sense of what her life has become.
In Outtakes From a Marriage, Leary’s characters are so richly developed that I felt like I had been dropped right into their world, moving amongst them and feeling their pain. Especially the women characters. Joe seemed more like a mannequin to me, with the exception of some clearly defined and appealing characteristics.
One of the book’s finest moments came as Julia’s memories, from childhood, from her youth, and from the early marriage filtered through at the darkest moments, sprinkling a bit of hope onto the angst-ridden scenes.
What will Julia decide about her husband and her marriage? Is he or is he not a philandering creep, or is there something salvageable about him? Should she support him and stand by him throughout his Golden Globe red carpet moments, or should she leave him standing? These and other answers gradually come in the final pages, but in the end, the author leaves the reader speculating.
I awarded this book four stars, because although it was a more in-depth exploration of celebrity life than many similar tales, the themes were somewhat predictable.