The Engagements

Another wedding-themed book for the honeymoon, and one of best books I read all year! (Yes, that includes Harry Potter.)

The root of The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan is the true story of Mary Frances Gerety’s creation of the phrase “A Diamond is Forever” in the 1940s and her subsequent advertising career, centered around — you guessed it — diamonds. Each of the book’s five parts begins with an excerpt from Frances’ life and is then followed by one of four stories: Evelyn and Gerald Pearsall, a wealthy Boston couple in the early 1970s reeling from their son abandoning his wife and two daughters; James and Sheila McKeen, a poor Boston couple trying to make ends meet at Christmas in the late 1980s; Delphine (no idea what her last name is), a fortyish Parisian woman who has uprooted her life for a younger man in the early 2000s; and Kate and Dan (also no idea what their last names are), a modern New York couple living in sin with a child but refusing to get married. Eventually, the stories all tie together in the coolest possible way: An engagement ring.

Evelyn Pearsall is a retired teacher trying to adapt to the ways the world is rapidly changing around her. She is heartbroken that her son Teddy has left his wife and daughters for another woman, and absolutely horrified when he returns to Boston with the dreaded other woman. We learn that Evelyn was originally married to Nathaniel, but he was killed in a drunk driving accident, so she turned around and fell in love with his best friend Gerald. She still wears the engagement ring Gerald gave her, a rare piece with two equally sized oval diamonds and many smaller diamonds surrounding them.

James McKeen just can’t catch a break. He needs to fix a leak in his run-down house, his back is killing him and he’s exhausted but he has to work a 24-hour Christmas Eve shift driving an ambulance, his wife Sheila resents him for not being around when she was mugged a few weeks back. He is filled with painful self-loathing and just wants things to get easier, so when he’s called to the scene of an older woman’s house in a wealthy Boston neighborhood and finds her unconscious in her living room, the temptation to slip the beautiful and unique diamond ring off her finger is too great to fight.

Delphine has made the biggest mistake of her life. After a solid marriage to and business relationship with Henri in Paris, she enters into a love affair with a 23-year-old musician by the name of P.J. Delphine has never truly loved Henri the way he needs her to, so when P.J. seduces her away with passion and lust and a promise of a better life in New York, it only takes her a few days to completely give in. Not one year into their life together in New York, she discovers P.J. has been unfaithful to her. She plans to return the unique diamond engagement ring he gave her to its rightful owner — his mother, Sheila — but loses it right after destroying P.J.’s apartment and before boarding a plane back to Paris, back to Henri.

Kate and Dan have a beautiful life and three-year-old daughter together, but Kate’s extremely annoying family just cannot understand why she refuses to get married. Unfortunately they’re all staying at her house for the weekend because her cousin Jeffrey is marrying his partner Toby right after gay marriage has finally been legalized in New York. Kate is in charge of the rings and, after losing one and subsequently losing her mind, discovers that the original ring was found in the back of a cab, and its two unique two-diamond setting was melted down to make separate rings for the new grooms.

I really love the way these stories all came together — I didn’t even think they needed to at first, but when I realized they were going to it was fun to try to figure out how. Kate and Dan’s story is the most relatable because it’s the most modern and, although I just got married, I found myself agreeing with a lot of Kate’s ideology, but it was so interesting reading about marriage and everything that comes after through the eyes of different couples during different eras. It was even more interesting seeing how one copywriter at one advertising agency changed the way all American women view engagement rings for the foreseeable future. Another absolutely perfect honeymoon read!

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2 thoughts on “The Engagements

  1. Pingback: Maine | Katie Boe

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