Texarkana, TX 91° Thu H 93° L 74° Fri H 92° L 75° Sat H 93° L 74° Weather Sponsored By:

BOOKS | REVIEWS: You Were Made for This

BOOKS | REVIEWS: You Were Made for This

June 23rd, 2018 by Associated Press in Features
This cover image released by Hachette shows "You Were Made For This," a novel by Michelle Sacks. (Hachette via AP)

You Were Made for This (Little, Brown), by Michelle Sacks

Appearances sometimes are not just deceiving but can hide fissures so deep and fractured that tragedy can seem a surprise when it occurs. Michelle Sacks richly explores marriage and parenting—and the illusions that some couples present to the world—in her riveting debut, "You Were Made for This."

To outsiders, Merry and Sam Hurley seem to have settled into an idyllic life in rural Sweden. The Hurleys thrive on being together almost constantly—"an island of three"—doting on their 8-month-old baby, Conor. Merry has embraced cooking, canning fruits and vegetables from her own garden, and spending precious time with Conor. Sam has regenerated his career filming documentaries and commercials. They insist that they don't miss the chaos of New York City where he was an anthropology professor at Columbia University and Merry was a sought-after set designer.

But all that is a charade, like one of Merry's intricate sets. Sam forced Merry to move to Sweden where he had inherited a near dilapidated house from his stepmother. Merry doesn't know that Sam was fired from his job, nor that his work in Sweden is nonexistent. In private, Sam doesn't miss a chance to deride his wife, her former career or her appearance. He condescendingly praises her domestic duties by telling her "you were made for this." Merry chafes at Sam's control, but does little to help herself. Worst of all, Merry cares nothing for Conor, will let him cry for hours and stay in a dirty diaper when she's by herself.

Then Frank, Merry's best friend since they were girls and also worst enemy, comes for a prolonged visit, upsetting the house of cards. Frank knows that Merry has a life-long habit of deception, and she sets about manipulating Merry and Sam, and bonding with Conor. The tragedy that follows is devastating, and unpredictable.

Each character proves to be an unreliable narrator in "You Were Made for This," and Sacks excels at making Sam, Merry and Frank both the heroes/heroines and the villains. Each alternately elicits sympathy from the reader and then disgust. These are people who inflict a "different kind of violence" on each other—with "words and silences," how "the deft salting of the wounds you know cut the deepest."

Sacks, author of the short story collection "Stone Baby" delivers a brilliant, unflinching look at a household under siege from itself.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Texarkana Gazette Comments Policy

The Texarkana Gazette web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Gazette web sites and any content on the Gazette web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Gazette, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Gazette web sites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Texarkana Gazette
15 Pine Street
Texarkana, TX 75501
Phone: 903-794-3311
Email: webeditor@texarkanagazette.com