Book Review: Many Love

many loveMany Love: A Memoir of Polyamory and Finding Love(s)
by Sophie Lucido Johnson
Memoir
230 pages
Published June 2018

I always pick up new polyamory books, and this one is excellent. Sophie simply tells the story of her love life, from falling in love with other boys while dating someone as a teen, to consciously deciding to date another couple, as a couple, in her adulthood. She doesn’t pretend it was all roses, though. She hurt people unintentionally when she was younger, and struggled with jealousy in a number of different ways.

I liked that she was so real. She didn’t shy away from talking about her heartbreaks, and the situations she found herself in sound all too likely. I also really liked the illustrations. The cover is a good indication of the style within – almost comic-book like. Rather than going with the story, the illustrations are part OF the story – she asks her boyfriend a question, his answer is in the illustration, and then the story continues in text. There’s a chart of types of jealousy, drawn in the illustration style rather than perfect text boxes. Then you get owls asking each other “Whooooo is your favorite?” It gives the book almost a playful feel.

One thing I really liked is how she talked about friendships and polyamory. In a typical monogamous marriage, (not all!) there are rules about cheating. If you cuddle another person, or spend the night with them, that’s probably cheating, even if it’s platonic. In polyamory, though, there’s a lot more leeway for how relationships can look. Sophie, for a good portion of the book, lives with a couple who are her best friends. She climbs into bed with them for comfort. They have dinner together, and tell each other “I love you.” I really love that she talks about friendships in the context of polyamory; I don’t think that gets discussed often enough. I feel like being polyamorous lets friendships evolve as they will, instead of being constrained by your romantic relationships. If I have a friend who I like to cuddle up on the couch with and watch movies, my husband sees nothing wrong with that.

I plan to buy this book to add to my polyamory shelf. If you’re polyamorous or curious about the relationship style, I highly recommend this book. She also has chapter notes, a bibliography, and an index in the back of the book, so it’s stuffed full of other resources, too.

From the cover of Many Love:

Sophie Lucido Johnson gets a lot of questions when she tells people that she’s polyamorous. Many Love is an intimate look at this often misunderstood practice: its history, its misconceptions, and Sophie’s personal transformation from serial monogamist to proud polyamorist.

After trying for years to emulate her boomer parents’ forty-year-and-still-going-strong marriage, Sophie realized that maybe the love she was looking for was down a road less traveled. In this bold, illustrated memoir, she explores her sexuality, her values, and the versions of love our society accepts and practices. Along the way, she shares what it’s like to play on Tinder side by side with your partner, encounter – and surmount – many types of jealousy, and learn the power of female friendship, along with other amazing things that happened when she stopped looking for “the one.”

In a lot of ways, Many Love is Sophie’s love letter to everyone she has ever cared for. Witty, insightful, and complete with illustrations, this debut provides a memorable glimpse into an unconventional life.

Book Review: Next Year, For Sure

nextyearNext Year, For Sure
Zoey Leigh Peterson
Fiction
241 pages
Published 2017

(WARNING: SPOILERS AT THE END OF THE REVIEW)

I’ve been procrastinating on this review because I’m not 100% sure how I feel about this book. I liked it – but I didn’t. It was not at ALL my normal style of book, but it is about a topic near and dear to my heart. It was very realistic but also relied heavily on a stereotype.

So first off, Next Year, For Sure is about a couple opening up their relationship. Not just to casual sex, but to actual other relationships. (It’s called polyamory, though the word is never mentioned in the book.) Kathryn and Chris have been together for 9 years and have what everyone would call the perfect relationship. And they really do. But then Chris gets a crush, and Kathryn encourages him to follow up on it. The rest of the book is the year following this event, and how it affects their relationship.

I’ve mentioned previously that I am polyamorous – coincidentally, we opened up our relationship almost nine years in, but not because he had a crush. It was mostly because my husband is bisexual, and I wanted him to have the freedom to explore that. We’d been introduced to the concept by some friends of ours, and had discussed it for almost three years before officially opening up. So we had a lot more communication and preparation than the couple in the book did. However, the emotions that Kathryn goes through as Chris explores his new relationship are very, very accurate. We did not have the same end result as the couple in the book do (Spoiler: that’s a good thing!) but the feelings and thoughts that Kathryn has for a large part of the book I am intimately familiar with. Even down to the time she spends very, very sick when her husband is out of town with the other woman. That actually happened to me. I could have called him home (he was a three hour drive away) and on later reflection, all parties concerned agreed that I SHOULD have. (He did not realize how sick I was until he got home a few days later.) So it was really interesting watching all this play out in the book when so much of it felt so familiar.

I was, however, extremely disappointed with how the book ended. I feel a bit like I’m missing the last third of the book. I don’t feel like there was any closure, more like the author simply got tired of writing and just – stopped.

Quick digression before getting to the spoilers: the author is Canadian, so this book is part of my Read Canadian Challenge. You can find the rest here:
1. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
2. The Red Winter Trilogy
3. Station Eleven
4. The Courier
5. The Last Neanderthal
6. American War
7. this book!
8. That Inevitable Victorian Thing
9. All The Rage
10. The Clothesline Swing
11. Saints and Misfits
12. Tomboy Survival Guide
13. The Wolves of Winter

(SPOILERS FOLLOWING)

Another thing I was extremely disappointed by is Peterson falls back on the stereotype that opening up doesn’t work – that the first relationship doesn’t last in poly. Chris and Kathryn break up, though they remain friends. That bothers me. Some of the most solid relationships I know of are poly couples – one is actually a triad, and has been for several years. At least two others are LONGtime couples, where each partner has other partners. My husband has been with his other partner for almost four years now. We’ve had a couple of rough spots, ironing out how this works for us, but we’ve never come close to breaking up. So it’s frustrating to see a novel that treats poly in an otherwise positive light relying on an old stereotype of breaking up the founding couple. It just feeds into “obviously something is wrong in the relationship if they’re looking elsewhere.” So while the portrayals of emotions involved in opening up are SO. SPOT. ON. I find it really hard to recommend this book because of how it ultimately misrepresents something that has so little representation in media to begin with. I kind of wanted to throw the book across the room, to be honest.

Final verdict – it’s good. It’s probably worth reading, especially if you’re poly. But the ending SUCKS.

In typing the jacket description up, I was reminded of a few other things. One: the book alternates between Kathryn’s perspective and Chris’s perspective, but never gives us Emily’s perspective, and that’s a problem. There are three people in this relationship, not two. Also I’m a bit peeved at the last line of the description – it implies that true openness and transformation require the breakup at the end of the book, and that is not at ALL true. Again with the bad stereotypes!

From the cover of Next Year, For Sure:

After nine years together, Kathryn and Chris have the sort of relationship most would envy – warm and loving and deeply intertwined. But, as content as they are together, an enduring loneliness continues to haunt the dark corners of their relationship. When Chris tells Kathryn about his attraction to Emily, a vivacious young woman he sees often at the laundromat, Kathryn encourages him to ask her out on a date – certain that her bond with Chris is strong enough to weather whatever may come.

Next Year, For Sure tracks the tumultuous, revelatory, and often very funny year that follows. When Chris’s romance with Emily evolves beyond what anyone anticipated, both Chris and Kathryn are invited into Emily’s communal home, where Kathryn will discover new possibilities of her own. In the confusions, passions, and upheavals of their new lives, Kathryn and Chris are forced to reconsider their past and what they thought they knew about love.

Offering a luminous portrait of a relationship from two perspectives, Zoey Leigh Peterson has written an empathic, beautiful, and tremendously honest novel about a great love pushed to the edge. Deeply poignant and hugely entertaining, Next Year, For Sure shows us what true openness and transformation require.

 

#90sinJuly – July 2 – Tearin Up My Heart

“It’s tearin’ up my heart when I’m with you
But when we are apart, I feel it too
And no matter what I do, I feel the pain
With or without you”

So here’s an interesting tidbit I’m not sure I’ve mentioned: I’m polyamorous. That means my husband and I have multiple romantic relationships at the same time. We’ve been married ten years (on the 11th!) and he has a girlfriend of 3 years. I do not yet have a boyfriend, though there have been a few flirtations over the last few years. (We opened up shortly before he and his girlfriend started dating.) So this lyric made me think of something he’s said about poly – that no matter who he’s with he’s always missing someone, so it’s kind of bittersweet.

20170626_213011

So I’m posting More Than Two today, which is a magnificent, and fairly recent, addition to books about polyamory.

Other excellent books include Opening Up, The Ethical Slut (though I’ve found that to be more about ethical non-monogamy than poly – it’s a small difference but significant – often more casual sex involved) Polyamory in the 21st Century, and The Jealousy Workbook, for people that struggle with that. (Which I do sometimes.)

 

The 90s in July Index post can be found here.