Cover image for The intermission [large print] / Elyssa Friedland.
The intermission [large print] / Elyssa Friedland.
Large print edition.
Publication Information:
Waterville, Maine : Thorndike Press, a part of Gale, a Cengage Company, 2018.

Physical Description:
589 pages (large print) ; 23 cm.
Have you ever had a secret so gut-wrenching you couldn't tell anyone, not even the person who shares your bed? Told from the alternating perspectives of a husband and wife who both have something to hide, this incisive novel pulls back the curtain on a seemingly-happy marriage, posing the question: how much do we really know--and how much should we want to know--about the people we love the most? After five long years, the unshakable confidence Cass Coyne felt as a bride is gone. Her husband, Jonathan, on the other hand, is still smitten. It's true that the quirks he once found charming in his wife--her high standards, her refusal to clean the dishes--are beginning to grate. But for him, these are minor challenges in a healthy relationship. So it comes as a complete shock to Jonathan when Cass suddenly requests a marital "intermission": a six-month separation during which they'll decide if the comfortable life they've built is still the one they both want. Aside from a monthly custodial exchange of their beloved dog, contact will be limited. But as the months pass, they begin to see that calculated silences just like these have helped to drive them apart--and that it may finally be time to confront the blistering secrets they've been avoiding. --Publisher.


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Told from the alternating perspectives of a husband and wife who both have something to hide, this incisive novel pulls back the curtain on a seemingly happy marriage, posing the question: how much do we know -- and should we know -- about the people we love the most?

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This entertaining marriage saga from Friedland (Love and Miss Communication) unravels the minutiae of everyday life in a broken marriage. It takes five years for the charm to fade from Cass Coyne's marriage. Generally insecure and daunted by the prospect of becoming a mother, Cass informs her husband that they'll be taking a six-month "intermission" and live seperately. While Cass has relished the stability, luxury, and love she's found with hedge fund analyst Jonathan, she can't quite move past her impoverished and neglected childhood or the guilt of secretly orchestrating her initial meeting with Jonathan. Told from both Cass's and Jonathan's perspectives, the story follows Cass as she leaves her posh New York apartment and begins an affair with a manipulative Hollywood producer in L.A. In Cass's absence, Jonathan reaches out to his high school sweetheart and attempts to reconcile a disturbing indiscretion from his prep school past. Told in direct prose, Friedland's emotionally fraught narrative shows how seemingly insignificant events inform and hide the "deep, dark truths... that reveal [the] weaknesses in the fibers" in the Coynes' relationship. In the end, their intermission might have to be permanent. Although the characters are frustratingly feckless and the ending is too abrupt, Friedland insightfully dissects motives, lies, and love in this engrossing deconstruction of a bad marriage. Agent: Stefanie Lieberman, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Outwardly, Cass and Jonathan Coyne are the perfect couple, with matching Ivy League educations, brilliant careers, good looks, health, and money. But petty annoyances and secrets have driven a wedge between them. Five years into their marriage, on the verge of trying to conceive their first child, Cass suggests a temporary separation-or, as she calls it, drawing on her background in theater marketing, an intermission. Jonathan and Cass go their separate ways, exploring alternative relationships and other futures. In the process, they recall the most painful episodes of their life together and reevaluate their union. The titular metaphor, reinforced throughout, leaves little doubt as to the eventual outcome; the seeming inevitability of reconciliation reduces the stakes for readers. However, the fate of this frequently insufferable couple is incidental to the main purpose of the work: a thoughtful deep dive into a marriage. VERDICT Convincing in its description of the frustrations of daily life, the small slights and larger failures of communication that cumulatively compromise a relationship, this book club-friendly read will please fans of Friedland's earlier work, Love and Miscommunication.-Lindsay Morton, P.L. of Science, San Francisco © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



1. Cass Cass Coyne was thinking a lot about her marriage lately. Particularly, she found herself wondering how much joy she should derive from it. Or maybe joy was ambitious, and it was really complacency she should be after. She just didn't know what was normal to expect to feel on a daily basis. It didn't seem correct that after five years of marriage she was evaluating her relationship with her husband like it was an item in the grocery store she was considering purchasing. A melon probed for firmness. Sweetness. Or that she sometimes pictured her marriage like a snow globe, the delicate flakes inside representing the past, present and future, and that no matter how it all shook out, it didn't seem to settle properly. These weren't questions that could easily be raised with her friends, some of whom would give their right arm for a husband like hers. Others would think the mere question was childish-their modus operandi was to get up, go to work, make dinner, have sex, maybe make a baby, rinse and repeat. Besides, "normal" was too relative a term about which to have a meaningful discussion. So was "happiness." Cass just wanted to know, in the recent days where minutes stretched into hours and weeks blurred into months, if it was normal (there was that word again) that at times (only rarely!) she wished she was single. That she'd never married Jonathan Coyne. That she'd never clinked beers with him at Paragon, where the serious types at Brown went to get wasted. That she hadn't called out to him on Park Avenue and flung her arms around him six years later. But how could she help it? He was the answer to everything. Her husband-before he became that-used to remind her of a nearly ripe farm-stand peach, a project almost completed. He was someone in need of finishing touches, a man who would be so grateful to her for getting him a better haircut and jazzing up his apartment that he'd fail to see that she was truly the one in need of finishing. And that day on Park Avenue? When they finally came face-to-face? Well, he had flashed her the warmest of smiles when the recognition set in, sending a heat coursing through her chilled body. At that fateful moment, she marveled how a person could literally transmit electricity to another person without even touching. Lately, though, she wondered if her body had just been responding to a spike in temperature after leaving the artic chill of the office tower where she was working. Maybe excessive air-conditioning was to blame for the subsequent trajectory of her life. Of course she didn't really believe that. She had charged into her marriage with eyes wide open. Back then, Jonathan was a doorway with an inviting threshold, one she had no inclination to sidestep. After all, she'd beaten a path right to it. In their king-sized bed (a bed of her own making, she thought wryly), Jonathan snored peacefully. Snoring. It was caused by a narrowing of the upper airway during sleep. Just the thought of it made her feel like she was choking. But every night, Jonathan snored comfortably next to her. He'd always snored, or at least she thought he had. Thinking back over the course of their relationship was surprisingly like gaping at something through foggy glass. It was just that now, the snores were deafening, and still Jonathan managed to look at ease as he sputtered out those throaty chaaaa-shoooos. Sometimes she had to wonder if he was faking it. I'm trying to sleep; don't talk to me, his pretend snores were conveying. Well, that was fine. She did that too sometimes. He would tap her on the shoulder and whisper, "Cass," wanting to chat or maybe have sex, and she'd utter something unintelligible in return, while in her head she held back a perfectly logical response. When did that pattern of theirs start? Another thing she couldn't quite remember. She looked up at the blurry red numbers dancing on the ceiling. Jonathan had insisted on buying one of those alarm clocks that project the time upward. He adored gadgets-it went along with his penchant for science, math, numbers-anything with a concrete solution and logic behind it. She argued that the new device would make their room look like a spaceship. Who was too lazy to rotate their head? In truth, she loved it, smiling to herself each time she didn't have to turn over to make out the time on the night table. Especially now that she wasn't sleeping well, watching the numbers tick by on her back was almost hypnotic. Not that she ever told Jonathan how much she liked that glowing metronome in the dark, choosing instead to add her tolerance of it to a growing stockpile of bargaining chips she maintained. Was that normal too? That she treated their marriage like an accountant maintaining a ledger of checks and balances? She was hardly in a position to do anything of the sort. Relief took hold of her when she saw it was 5:00 a.m., and she anchored the spindly tips of her shoulder blades more deeply into the Tempur-Pedic mattress. What a funny thing, a Tempur-Pedic. A way to share without having to compromise. If only all things in life, in marriage, were that easily reconciled. It was morning enough outside-sharp slivers of light attacked the crevices between the curtains and the window. Five was much better than three, the time she had grown accustomed to waking recently. Why was it that when she had to get to work, the sound of her alarm clock at seven thirty was the most excruciating noise, rousing her from a sleep that felt almost drug-induced, it was so deep and so pleasurable? But since she'd stopped working, sleep had evaded her, wakefulness creeping up on her in the still of the night like it never had before. It had to be anxiety, that menacing beast. Cass eyed Puddles sleeping in his usual spot, stretched on his back like a hysterical lady on a fainting couch. He was covered partly with the pilled cashmere throw ornamenting the otherwise useless armchair in the corner of the room. Their snooty decorator, Carmel, had talked them into it. Apparently having a master bedroom with only a king-sized bed and a television did not qualify as a room, so a cozy club chair was purchased. Puddles loved to sleep in their room, even though his crate and toys were set up in the spare bedroom, where he happily watched Animal Planet during the day on an enormous flat-screen TV. It was a bit absurd, she knew, the way they had tricked out the adjacent room with a bone-shaped area rug, canine wall decals and felt baskets overflowing with chew toys. The minute they had a baby Puddles would be displaced and "his room" would be transformed into a light blue or light pink paradise, but not until someone was hired to clean it with hazmat-level intensity. The poor guy didn't realize how soon that day was coming. "You're up," Jonathan said, but it sounded more like a question. She hadn't noticed his snoring had quieted. "Yes, I'm up. Was I stirring too much?" "It's fine. I'll be able to fall back asleep." Of course you will, she thought. You'll just press your "sleep" button and drift back into dreamland. Lately, Cass found herself resenting good sleepers the most, even more than loud talkers, slow orderers and unwanted touchers (the ones who plucked your loose threads or a detached eyelash without permission). Now it was those people who could get a reliable eight hours of shut-eye each night who had become the most detestable, even if that included her harmless husband. "I'm gonna take a shower now. I'll be quiet." She slipped out of bed and drifted toward the bathroom. This morning she chose to stand smack-dab in the center of the shower, letting the rainfall faucet pound her evenly all over. Hot drops rolled down her face like molten tears, minus the saltiness. She licked her lips. "We have sex once a week," she said out loud, but quietly. She liked to speak to an imaginary therapist every now and then. It was cheaper than real therapy, not that she needed to be terribly worried about such an expenditure. The freedom to spend money still managed to surprise her every time she swiped her AmEx for an overpriced latte or a new pair of heels at Bergdorf Goodman. How could it not, when she grew up in a home where the cable and electric were turned off regularly and Cass, by age six, could recognize and decode the colors of the eviction notices stapled to their front door? A green notice was a threat but still vaguely friendly-as if to say everyone over at the sheriff's office was rooting for you to get your shit together and pay what you owed. Yellow meant you had thirty days to scrounge up the rent; red-well, red meant Cass should start packing up her room immediately. Red meant she and her mom were closer and closer to ending up in one of those trailer parks near the highway. God, she hated that color. Didn't have a stitch of red decor in the apartment she and Jonathan shared and she even avoided using it at work when possible. Marketing the revival of The Scarlet Letter had proved especially difficult. Her boss had chewed her out for the first time ever when she presented the poster with the pink A. She didn't love her husband because he made a very good living (or for the comfortable nest egg his family provided), but she sure found it attractive that being Mrs. Jonathan Coyne meant that her mail was a stack of Architectural Digests and not letters from collection agencies. That she didn't have to try a dozen pieces of plastic before sales clerks said to her, relief and pity in their eyes, "Okay, that one went through." There was no shame in appreciating her lifestyle: on the contrary, she was proud. Up until recently, she had been contributing nicely too. And she'd continue to do so again, once . . . once . . . next steps were decided upon. The waning of their sex life, among other things, was worrying her, though she was resistant to visiting a shrink to talk about it. For one thing, Jonathan was dismissive of talk therapy. When she told him about a coworker starting couples counseling, he sniggered and said how grateful he was that Cass was so not the type to drag him to anything like that. And going alone to talk through things on a couch didn't seem like it would yield much of a solution. Her friends told her their weekly sessions were essentially monologues, and you just had to pray the entire time you weren't going to run into anyone you knew in the waiting room. How would she respond when the therapist inevitably asked, "What brings you here?" Could she really answer, "I'm not sure," and then expect him to tease it out of her? Was there even anything to tease? A subtle layer of confusion clouding her everyday routine. An anxiety that shook the sleep out of her. The persistent revisiting of her past actions. Yes, it seemed there was most definitely something to be discussed, but once the genie was out of the bottle, restoring it and locking it back in the deep folds of her subconscious would be impossible. Talking to a bar of soap had fewer repercussions. "Actually, it's more like once every two weeks," she continued aloud. If she was going to unburden herself, even if only to the glass door getting socked by the showerhead, it might as well be the truth. "My husband works a lot. I used to as well." Tell me more about that, the therapist responded. Or he didn't. It was always a he in her mind. "There's nothing more to say. I just thought you should know. It seems to be an important subject." Cass looked at her waterproof watch, saw it was 5:10, and decided the session was over. Another advantage to an invisible shrink. She worked the fragrant shampoo with the Le Bristol label on the mini bottle through her hair, scrubbing her scalp more vigorously than usual. How many bottles of that shampoo did she have left? She had filched about a dozen on her and Jonathan's trip to Paris a year ago. He'd had to go for work and she had tagged along. He didn't want her to bring home the bottles, bellyaching that airport security would think it was some kind of liquid bomb, and even if the bottles were cleared, they would surely leak in their suitcase. His undertone: If you want fancy bath products, just go buy them-in America. She acquiesced, but stuffed them in her luggage at the last minute anyway. They never discussed it when they got home, though Jonathan could hardly have missed the tidy row of them in their shared medicine cabinet. Lemon verbena. It smelled nice. She'd still never looked up what verbena was. A plant, probably. Something for rich people. What kind of rebellion was it anyway to provoke her virtuous husband by stealing toiletries? Was it just to show him she wasn't embarrassed about where she came from? She was embarrassed, so what kind of move was it to try to convince him otherwise? Her insecurities fed her need to prove something to Jonathan, and though she recognized the vicious cycle, she simply couldn't break it. What was it about feeling unworthy of Jonathan that brought out the worst in her? Basic common sense would dictate that she should be her best self around him: compassionate, loving and agreeable when it came to shampoo. But the repressed sense of inferiority-the depths of which only she knew-made her constantly feel the need to test her husband, who deserved none of this in his life. She wanted to pinch herself to make it stop-this gruesome habit of playing with fire. Sometimes when she laid her head on her pillow at night, after Jonathan said his ritualistic "Night, love you," she'd swear to herself that the next day she'd be different. She'd pour his orange juice, kiss him tenderly before he headed for work, and tell him how lucky she knew she was. 2. Jon(athan) He was standing in front of a Bloomberg Terminal in the hallway when the new girl approached. "Mr. Coyne, can you review these memos before I include them in the investor packet? I looked up several years of precedents before drafting, but I'm happy to make any changes you'd like." Excerpted from The Intermission by Elyssa Friedland All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.