The First Husband, on shelves May 12, starts on the eve of Annie Adam's 32nd birthday. The LA-based travel writer loves her career and living with her boyfriend of five years, Nick, the man she thinks she's going to marry. Nick shatters that plan by initiating a break and moving out, and a lovesick Annie ends up meeting Griffin, a lighthearted and loving chef who soon knows Annie's the one he wants to marry. Annie says yes, and finds herself living in a small town in Massachusetts unsure if this married life, or her husband, is right for her. I spoke with the author Laura Dave — whose first two novels have been optioned by Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston respectively — about how she hopes readers will relate to her message, and got her thoughts on another book-to-rom-com, Something Borrowed.
TrèsSugar: Annie, the main character, struggles to accept a quieter, simple life with a husband in a small town. What do you think are the pros and cons of "settling down?"
Laura Dave: Often this idea of freedom we all play with, the idea we have every opportunity, ends up making us feel less free and more stressed. We have so many options now; we feel like we can't make any good decision. When things get quiet in Annie's life, she has to contend with herself. We don't have to do that when we're running to the next big thing all the time. In that quiet, at first it is difficult, but then it moves her closer to someone she really felt like she is. If we're lucky, that can be what happens. The book has some traditional messages, but really I tried to show it's less about which guy she was going to pick, and more about which Annie she was going to pick. One Annie was always looking to escape, for excitement and the next adventure. The other Annie is figuring out how to be present in her own life and accept herself.
TS: Do you think that struggle applies to most young adults today? Is it harder to settle down and feel satisfied?
LD: With our grandparents' generation, you got married, you did this, you did that; there was one traditional path. Now, it's a lot better, there are many paths. But the flip side of that is that it's really hard to choose, I think, and not feel like you're looking at all the closing doors once you choose.
TS: Your main character Annie realized that her dreams have changed. Do you think most women's dreams evolve as they get older? Have yours?
LD: Things can change often. And often unhappiness can get wrapped up in a feeling attached to the idea of how things are supposed to be. And if we step outside of that, we realize what's actually happening can be far more interesting than the plans we made for ourselves. Especially when you're young, you have a paper-perfect idea of your life, and often that doesn't fit with what feels good. Getting older, if you're lucky, is not about embracing harder the paper version, but letting go and letting yourself have the life that feels good.
TS: People always say "you know when you know." Do you think that's true, or can we have multiple loves at the same time, like Annie seems to?
LD: I don't think you know when you know. You can be at a friend's wedding, and they'll say, "I knew right from the start." And you'll think, "Really? Because I was there at the start and she did not." Just how friends you've known for 20 years take on different meanings as you know them longer and understand them more deeply, so is the case with love. At its best it's that sense of discovery, the sense that I love you more every day.
TS: What's the status of your first two books, London is the Best City in America and The Divorce Party? Are they being made in to movies? Find out her answer when you keep reading.
LD: The first book was bought by Reese Witherspoon and The Divorce Party by Jennifer Aniston — that one is in active development.
TS: Did you see Something Borrowed? Why do you think it didn't do well with critics?
LD: The reviews don't seem to match up with my theater; people were applauding! And I think people who read the book really enjoyed it. Kate Hudson was in that terrible Bride Wars movie, so maybe that got carried over in some people's minds.
In the process of making a film, every character has to be so likable for things to move forward. But as soon as you do that, the critics say "No one was nuanced!" And it's not like that for guy movies. Jim Carrey in the beginning of Liar Liar was such a jerk, his evolution could be to someone who was kinder. For women, she's always nice, but needs to learn how to be nicer to herself. As soon as you do something more complicated than that, everyone has all these ideas about it.