REVIEW: A Midnight Feast by Genevieve Turner and Emma Barry
Houston, Texas, 1965
Margie Dunsford relishes her role as the leader of the astronaut wives. With her children away and her guests canceling, she faces a terrifying prospect: an entire Thanksgiving weekend alone with her husband.
Mitch knows the fire has gone out in his marriage, but he fears if he attempts to reignite it, Margie will freeze him out forever. Now he’s determined to use the distraction-free weekend to win her back.
Twenty years of resentments can’t be erased in a few fevered days, and Margie and Mitch will have to learn how to speak with their hearts instead of their hurts if they are going to save their marriage.
A slightly Thanksgiving themed novella from the world of 1960s Houston! There are a few characters pulled from the Fly Me to the Moon series (Parsons is a hoot when he panics at the thought that the program might lose Margie as the organizer of the ASD wives) but this one stands alone well.
When I read the pitch for this book, I admit I hesitated just slightly when the word “adultery” was mentioned. From the blurb I knew this was a “marriage in trouble” story but actual cheating is something I take seriously. As it turned out, one character ventures close but when push comes to shove, realizes in the nick of time that this is not the person they want to be with and love. Whew. Because up until then, this story was firing on all cylinders as painful as parts of it were to read. It also nails the problems military marriages face.
From the opening sentence, it’s front and center that Margie and Mitch Dunsford’s marriage is shattered and hanging in tatters. Margie’s moved way past annoyance and onto rage and then to the death-knell of … nothing. No feelings at all to go along with the lack of any communication in their house. How did this couple who used to tear up the sheets after their quick and white hot courtship end up in separate twin beds and only interacting when needed to raise their six children and put on their public faces for the country and media? You don’t just tell us, you show us.
Mitch knew before even dancing with Margie the first time that she was someone special. The boring sap he saved her from certainly didn’t but Mitch was delighted when she took his lead and ran with it. Beautiful, smart and she knew how to change a tire as well plus she took no nonsense from him. Yep, this was the woman for him. Still, Mitch wasn’t sure she’d say yes when he popped this question. Somehow, though, he won the day and with Margie made a military team. A wife was just as important to a man’s career as his skills and Margie loved the military enough to put up with it and do what it took to survive and thrive.
But deployments take a toll and slowly they found themselves facing all the problems of military families. With Mitch away, distance tears at them and Margie has to be the disciplinarian and the fix-it spouse. Then when Mitch arrives home, he becomes the “fun” dad who unknowingly upsets the routines Margie depends on to keep everything running smoothly and who wants to do things only to discover that Margie’s already done them yet still resents Mitch for not being there when those things needed doing.
Margie hides her fears for him and constantly faces the very real threat that Mitch might be the next pilot to die. When some other wife grieves the loss of her husband, Margie pitches in to help her while hiding her gratitude she’d dodged that bullet again. But in keeping her emotions rigidly under control to get the job done, she pushes Mitch further away. He has to deny his pain in order to keep his edge when flying and thus more walls appear between them. Then when the astronauts and their wives basically become public property, Margie charms everyone else while those same people take even more of her time.
Mitch knows things are terribly wrong; the trouble is that neither he nor Margie think they can find their way back to when it was so good. Can he turn this thing around? Does Margie even want to try or will any effort on his part crack the thin ice their marriage is resting on?
Back from when I first read “The Right Stuff” and eventually saw the movie, it was obvious that the astronauts’ wives got the raw end of the deal. The episode from the series “To the Moon and Back” which focused on them reinforced that with the sad reality of the broken marriages and lives these women often lived. This novella manages to pack all that in and shows the strains the military and being a test pilot added to trying to make any relationship last past “I do.” But in addition, I can see when they loved each other too. When Mitch and Margie finally reach that crisis stage, we’ve seen the big and little things over the years that have lead them from the cracks to the fissures to the canyon between them. This is no “5 minute conversation” conflict or something that once it’s finally revealed makes me say, “is that all?”
Yet even with all the pain, it was clear that these two once loved passionately and that some feeling remained. But was it enough? The resolution doesn’t come easily nor are their issues fixed over night. They both have to do some soul searching and admissions of mistakes before tentatively stepping back from the edge. It’s all so believable and a text book but still readable example of what can shrivel a marriage and why communication is so vital. I felt I was headed down the road to disaster along with them and getting a front row seat to their pain and frustrations.
Will it be a book for everyone? Honestly, probably not as it’s more fun to read about a couple headed towards their “I love you’s” rather than seeing them claw their way back to a HEA but it’s real and heartfelt and when they regain the love that once sustained them, I got all happy. And I like the new covers too. A-