There are universally accepted themes in drama that are guaranteed to, if not draw tears, at a minimum will tug a bit at the heartstrings of every well-adjusted human being. Charming a reader into loving a character and then killing that character at the end of a book—sad. Tragic romance, star-crossed lovers destined never to have their happily-ever-after—sad. War, pestilence, famine—sad, sad, sad. Everyone can relate on some emotional level to those things.
Comedy, however—comedy can be a hit-or-miss proposition. Comedy is entirely subjective. It’s cultural; what a person finds funny may be influenced by race, religion, sex, or current state of mind. How else do you explain the Three Stooges? Or France’s obsession with Jerry Lewis? Carrot Top, anyone?
So when Ken O’Neill approached me about reading his debut novel The Marrying Kind, I have to admit I was intrigued. I feel like I have a pretty broad sense of humor, though I do have my limits. I think Joan Rivers is that limit for me. But I digress. If you don’t believe a topic as politically and socially relevant as the fight for marriage equality can be funny, you need to give this book a try, because Mr. O’Neill has managed to inject humor and heart into what many take for granted as an inalienable right.
The Marrying Kind is an Adam and Steve story. Literally. Well, technically it’s Adam and Steven. (Stavri, if his Romanian mother is really trying to get his attention.) But you get the point.
Set in New York City in 2007, before the state of New York boldly leapt from the dark ages and legalized same-sex marriage, the story follows Adam More and Steven Worth, who are six years into their relationship. Steven is a writer for The Gay New York Times, a small press, free publication owned and operated by his ex-boyfriend Brad, and Adam is in the business of catering to the institution of marriage. He’s a hugely successful wedding planner whose considerable talents are in high demand, but Adam’s career satisfaction begins to wane when thoughts of his own relationship and his commitment to Steven and his inability to make it legal juxtaposes how he makes his living.
When the hypocrisy of it all becomes too overwhelming, Adam decides to quit the wedding planning business, as well as to boycott anything that even marginally supports the heterosexual marriage agenda, and he and Steven embark upon a plan to rally the troops and make a statement about the injustice of it all. Caterers, florists, bakers—anyone who has a stake in the wedding industry is in some way influenced or affected by the Worth-More cause, but their cause also has a trickle-down effect when it creates drama within their own families.
This is the story of the moral dilemma between being true to oneself and doing what’s expected of you to keep peace within the family. Adam’s sister and Steven’s brother (who is a baker himself, whose business is directly affected by Adam and Steven’s cause) have finally decided to tie the knot, and they want Adam to plan the wedding, but not only does Adam refuse the plan it, he and Steven refuse to even attend it, (or any wedding, for that matter) which is a conflict that pits siblings against each other, and draws the family matriarchs into a guilt inducing, bribery making trip down the aisle of angst.
The conflict causes friction in Adam and Steven’s own relationship, as well, as they weigh conscience against loyalty, love against politics. Both sides have a point but neither wants to concede their point, until the guilt begins to consume Steven and his concession ultimately takes its toll on his relationship with Adam.
Told from Steven’s point-of-view, this book addresses an incredibly weighty topic, in an entirely charming way. It’s populated by a host of winning characters who help to tell Steven’s story. There is a particularly climactic moment at the end of the book that effectively drives home the point about the legal rights of partners that people like me, someone who’s been married for twenty-one years, take for granted until my eyes are opened to the inequity of the smallest technicalities that make a world of difference.
Not everyone wants or needs a piece of paper to seal their spiritual bond, but for those who do, for those who want and need it, they should have that right. It’s not a question of politics. It’s a question of compassion.
If you’re interested in learning a bit more about Adam and Steven’s movement, visit TheMarryingKind.Org
Pre-order The Marrying Kind HERE.