Book Report: Michelle Richmond ‘The Marriage Pact’
The Marriage Pact is a thriller by the American Michelle Richmond. Jake and Alice receive an invitation at their wedding to join The Pact, which aims to make a marriage a success. Jake and Alice also want them to stay together forever and join the group. But they soon realize that it is not all rosy and moonshine. The rules are strict and anyone who does not follow them will be punished. The punishments they receive are severe and disproportionate to the violation of the rule, leaving Alice and Jake tired quickly and wanting to go their separate ways.
- Main characters
- Symbols and motifs
- Title statement and book cover
- Structure and perspective / way of telling
- Time and place
- Original title: The Marriage Pact
- Title: The marriage pact
- Author: Michelle Richmond
- First print: 2017
- First edition translated into Dutch: 2017
- Translation: Marja Borg
- Number of pages: 475
- ISBN: 978 90 446 3201 9
Jake and Alice receive an unusual wedding gift from one of Alice’s clients, Liam Finnegan and his wife Vivian. It is a membership of The Pact, neither of you knows what it means. Vivian explains to them that The Pact is an agreement between a couple and a group of members who are there for each other. The Pact ensures that a marriage does not end. The Handbook contains all the rules that everyone within The Pact is expected to know and follow. Surprised by the gift, Alice and Jake join without knowing what they are getting into, but it does appeal to them that The Pact is doing everything it can to make the marriage a success.
During their first party of The Pact, Alice and Jake meet all the other members, who call each other Friends. To his surprise, Jake sees an old friend of his, JoAnne. When she gets a chance to speak to him alone, she apologizes. She should have made sure they weren’t allowed in, that way she could have saved Jake and Alice. Jake says nothing to Alice, who enjoyed the party and feels completely at home in The Pact with its rules.
Not much later, Jake meets JoAnne again. She lets him know that her husband Neil has many connections within The Pact. She’d heard they’d turned their attention to Alice, and that wasn’t a good sign. JoAnne advises him to read the handbook to avoid being punished. Jake wants them to leave The Pact, but Alice is scared because she herself has been warned that no one is leaving The Pact. Jake can’t let it rest and meets with Vivian. She does not want to hear about their departure and advises him to accept The Pact.
Alice is ordered to attend an appointment, but she concludes that she cannot go. At that point she has to be in court to plead a case. Jake decides to take her place. But that is not well received. The pilot waiting for Alice makes it clear to Jake that the invitation is from Finnegan and is only addressed to Alice.
A day later, a man and a woman drop by to take Alice with them, as punishment for not accepting the invitation. When Alice calls Jake she tells him she is locked up in a cell in a prison that The Pact has bought from the government. Here she has to wait until a sentence has been handed down. As a punishment, Alice has to put on a kind of collar for a month on which to rest her chin. But she can also go home and that is the most important thing for Alice. Weeks later, Jake notices that they have become much closer after the prison sentence, they have also made no more plans to leave The Pact.
During a conversation with JoAnne, Jake discovers that there are no divorces within The Pact. But many young members do disappear and die from accidents such as drowning or food poisoning. And as soon as someone loses their partner, they are encouraged by The Pact to start a new relationship and eventually get married.
Jake is invited to participate in an investigation. Although it’s non-committal, he knows he’d better come along. When he gets to the investigation, he learns it’s aimed at JoAnne. The man questioning him is Gordon. He begins with questions about the past, to which Jake provides vague answers. He doesn’t tell him about his secret arrangements with JoAnne and hopes no one knows about it. When the questioning is over, Gordon responds to Jake’s request to see JoAnne. He takes him to the cell, where she is completely naked.
She explains to him that her husband Neil is convinced that she is in a relationship with Jake, as well as other men. He had found an agenda and had started drawing conclusions based on the agreements. She is quite sarcastic and doesn’t look good, so Jake proposes to Gordon to get her out of jail. But in response, he is knocked down and falls unconscious to the floor. When he wakes up, Jake is on a plane that takes him back home.
Jake tells Alice everything that happened and it is not long before they have a fight. He never told her about his dates with JoAnne and now Alice thinks there is more to it. Jake hopes things will work out between them, but Alice thinks it’s normal for Jake to be punished for his misconduct. In prison he is charged with adultery with JoAnne. Although he contradicts this, he is not listened to. There is a proposal to testify against JoAnne in order to go free, but he refuses. He is being tortured and humiliated. He is also heavily punished in court
and it’s Neil who made it happen.
When he gets out and goes back home, neither he nor Alice talks about what has happened and life just goes on. Until the doorbell rings and they both know they are in trouble again. They flee, but it is not long before they are found. Alice is taken because she was unfaithful. Jake has had it and sees only one solution, and that is asking Orla, the founder of The Pact, whether he and Alice can leave The Pact. During the conversation, he discovers that JoAnne is not a victim but has constantly been spying on him and Alice and getting into trouble. He also learns that Alice has not cheated him at all.
Orla is sick and is looking for a worthy successor, especially with a few vultures, like Neil and JoAnne, waiting for her to die. She gives Jake and Alice the option to choose: either take charge of The Pact or leave. They choose the latter and enjoy each other and their freedom.
Alice had been with Jake for three and a half years when they got married and otherwise has no family. Alice works as a lawyer and is very passionate. Alice had a career in music before meeting Jake. She is small, has green eyes and black hair.
He is a therapist and cares deeply about his patients.
He has been a well-known lead singer for an Irish folk rock band. He knows Alice because she helped out with one of his cases. He is married to Vivian.
She went to college the same year as Jake, they lived in the same college dorm, and she inspired him to become a therapist. JoAnne is married to Neil. The Pact does not trust her, while her husband Neil is the chairman of the North American regional government.
Symbols and motifs
In a few years, Alice has changed from an independent woman, with a music career, to a lawyer burdened with responsibilities.
Jake no longer knows who and what to believe. After all of JoAnne’s stories, he also begins to doubt himself. Is he such a loving husband or does he set the rules of his marriage? Perhaps all those punishments prepare Alice to become an ideal widow?
Jake knows The Pact is bad, but the purpose behind it for making a marriage work is also what Jake wants.
Jake had withheld all sorts of things from Alice, which is not allowed by the rules of The Pact. He knows he should have told her everything. But now it’s too late and he doesn’t know how to tell her.
Title statement and book cover
The Marriage Pact is a reference to The Pact of which Alice and Jake join. On the cover of the book you see a woman with her hand with blue nails, as it were, coming through the paper and looking at you.
Structure and perspective / way of telling
The book is dedicated to Kevin and consists of 475 pages, divided into 101 chapters. The book gives Jake’s point of view, which is written in the I person.
What compromises do you make for a good marriage?
Time and place
The story is set in the present day in Alabama, San Francisco, Nevada, Fernley (the prison) and Ireland.
The marriage pact is bizarre but manages to arouse the curiosity that will keep you reading. The first chapter starts well, but there is not always that much speed and sometimes it is a bit long-winded, so the story could have been told in less than 475 pages. Michelle Richmond has a fine writing style, uses small chapters and has worked on her main characters, making the book quick to read and maintaining your interest in the story as you want to know what’s going to happen to Alice and Jake. But then you get an anti-climax, because the plot is a bit bizarre and put together quite quickly, considering how much time it takes to get there. Certainly enough content and excitement to film.