If you haven’t yet picked up a book by author Laura Dave, I promise you this: you’re missing out. Two years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Laura about The Divorce Party, her follow-up novel to London is the Best City in America. Both books are fun and captivating reads, and needless to say, I was ready for more. Thankfully this month, Laura is celebrating the release of her new novel The First Husband, a story about love and relationships, and what it means to truly commit. Here, Laura talks about her new book and shares some exciting relationship news of her own.
Congratulations on the release of your third novel The First Husband! It’s ironic. I’m getting married this fall which means I’m actually writing a book called The First Husband as the first husband is coming. My fiancé thinks I should dedicate the book to him and say, “To my first husband, hopefully my last.” I keep telling him absolutely not. [She laughs].
How would you describe The First Husband? It starts in a place where Annie Adams [the lead character], in reaction to her longtime partner leaving her out of the blue, meets and marries someone else three months later. She wakes up in a tiny town in Massachusetts feeling like she has married a stranger and picked her life in reaction to something else.
What can readers expect from this book? All three of my books have started with a question. The first book, London is the Best City in America, asked how do we choose a life? When we’re in our 20s and 30s and have so many options, we can feel like closing any door is very difficult. The Divorce Party asked the question, how do we forgive? How do we stay with someone over the course of a lifetime? The First Husband is the third in a trilogy of books that answer questions about commitment and forgiveness. This one asks the question, how do we pick a new life when the life we thought we’ve chosen has fallen apart?
In your research about relationships, why is commitment so tough to figure out? I talked to a lot of psychologists and psychiatrists about this while I was working on all three books. Particularly with The First Husband, I learned that there are two elements at war against commitment now. One is that there is such a premium put on being “happy”. With our grandparents’ generation, we could have bad months or bad years with somebody and still know that, ultimately, happiness was wrapped up in this person and their family. Now, there’s this idea that if everything isn’t perfect at all times, maybe it’s the wrong choice. This dovetails with this other idea that everything is disposable. If our life in one city doesn’t work out, we can move to another. If a job isn’t working out (less so nowadays), we can pick another. There are so many imaginary options that it can make it hard to commit to someone else, let alone commit to yourself and the idea you have of what you want your own life to look like.
Is there a way to stay committed? The simplest answer is that you have to commit to the commitment. You have to really want to do that work. It’s also really important to commit to yourself. You really have to feel like you know who you are. It’s not to say that who you are isn’t a changing mechanism, and you can’t evolve, but it’s that that evolution is something that won’t lead you far away from what your core is. If you’re casting about, it’s easier to blame your partner. You think, I’m really miserable so it must be your fault.
Since all of your books answer questions about love and commitment, now that you’re getting married, how does that impact your perspective? It’s so funny. I think — as is often the case — it’s much easier to look out than look in. My fiancé is a screenwriter and has a very good sense of humor about people thinking that the characters in the book are based on him. I really am very careful to pull from the emotional life that I’m having and of my friends and what people I know are going through to try to get to something enlightening, but I’m very careful not to use details from my life or my friend’s lives. That feels like robbery. In terms of whether I’m able to look at my own relationship better, my guess is that I would say yes and my fiancé would say no. [She laughs].
You described your three books as a trilogy — was that your intention or did each one happen organically? They really happened organically. They’re only a trilogy in the ways that they speak to each other in retrospect. You certainly don’t need to read the first two books to understand the new one, but I actually feel like The First Husband delves into themes of commitment in a way that make me feel some closure with this topic. I’ve started working on my next book, which is told from the point of view of a man and woman. It really goes in a different direction.
London is the Best City in America was optioned for a movie by Reese Witherspoon; The Divorce Party was optioned by Jennifer Aniston. Are there any updates on that? The Divorce Party is in active development. I don’t know yet what’s going to happen, but hopefully we’ll have a director on board in the next couple of weeks to tell you about. I don’t really know what’s going to happen with London — things are moving a bit slower with that, but that’s how these things go. Something else that’s exciting is that I’m going to adapt The First Husband to be a movie. That will be a great experience for me.
That’s great! What inspired you to take that on? I co-wrote a screenplay with someone when I first moved out here for Dreamworks and it was a really great experience and something I enjoyed. I think that The First Husband would be a really fun movie and I just wanted to do it myself this time. I’m not ready to let these characters go!
What do you hope the outcome is for The First Husband? I hope it’s something that makes my readers happy. One of the nice things that is happening with this book is that we’re getting such a wonderful response from book clubs. My favorite part of publishing is talking to book clubs because it feels really intimate and I get to be a part of everyone’s life for a minute. I’m talking to 50 book clubs in the next three months, which is really lovely and I hope that continues. A reader said to me the other day one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received — that this book made her have insight into her own life. I hope people continue to embrace The First Husband and feel like it’s a conversation piece.
Last question — are there any books that you’re reading right now that you want to recommend? I read a book that’s coming out this summer called Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close. I really loved it. I just started Little Bee by Chris Cleave. I think that one’s pretty remarkable. My dear friend Allison Winn Scotch has her new book coming out next winter called The Song Remains the Same. One last one, which is one of my favorites — Alice Munro’s Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. That book is all short stories and it’s just fabulous.