What It Feels Like to “Find Out”: Review of “Vow”

Tucker Lieberman has published essays in anthologies including Balancing on the Mechitza, which won a 2011 Lambda Literary Award, and Letters for My Brothers, which was a 2012 Lambda finalist. He also writes fiction and poetry, co-organized a monthly open mic in Boston, serves as the volunteer channel manager for Historical Literature on Helium (www.helium.com), and produces a twice-yearly publication on ethics called Moral Relativism Magazine (www.moralrelativism.com).


Link to Vow:


“I used to think marriage was based on passion and love. Now I see that it’s based mostly on loyalty,” Wendy Plump writes in her new book, Vow. (“Loyalty with warmth,” she adds.)

In this emotionally stunning and pragmatically philosophical memoir of marital infidelity, Plump gradually reveals the layers of her story: her several affairs, followed by her husband’s affair–and his affair, she convinces the reader, was a worse transgression. She is not innocent, and she does not assume the mantle of righteousness. At the same time, she is angry about the specific way in which she was wronged–its “blast corridor” that she had to navigate through an “emotional coma”–and Plump’s anger brings her to a deepened perspective about marriage, family, romance, and herself, all of which she shares generously and directly.

Having committed infidelities herself, she does not present herself within a gendered narrative as a “wronged woman” oppressed by her husband’s behavior as much as she presents herself simply as a person who has suffered. “The received certainty that men cheat more than women doesn’t sit well. I just do not think it’s true,” she writes. “There are not men who cheat and women who endure them. There are people who cheat and there are people who don’t. It divides much more neatly along those lines. Spouses weaken at the same rate, as the (male) poet Galway Kinnell puts it. Look at Madame Bovary. Look at Anna Karenina. It’s only literature, but it’s great literature, and nothing if not reflective of our humanity. I raised myself on these classics, which may have been where I got the idea in the first place.” Continue reading