When a couple gets married, it isn’t just their lives that are thrown into chaos.
For Nicholas and Nala’s wedding, there’s the mother of the bride who is forced to face her failed marriage; there mother of the groom, who revisits her past — an old love; the bride’s best friend who has lost the only boy she thinks she will ever love and with him, all her happiness; the bride’s cousin who fooled around with her boyfriend’s best friend (who inconveniently turns out to be the groom); and the groom’s sister who cannot understand her brother’s choice of a future wife.
Surrounding the bride and groom’s happiness are the heartache, joys, hopes, dreams and realizations of the people who care about them. It makes you think: does everybody get a chance at happily ever after?
* * *
When a couple gets married, it’s easy to think that only their lives will change since they’re really the star of the wedding with dance gifts and all that, and the marriage that comes after. It’s easy to think that way since all spotlight is turned to them, but have we ever considered what happens to the lives of the people around them? Case in point: one of my closest friend’s sister got married last December, and she told me that she and their youngest sister spent the next few days crying because they missed their sister so much. You’d think the sister who got married was all happy because she was now living with her husband, but no — the married sister was also crying her eyes out of homesickness and separation anxiety for the people at home.
There wasn’t much drama in my home when my brother got married, although it did take me a little time to get used to the fact that I can’t just barge into the condo where my brother lives anytime I want, or he can’t stay too late at our house because he has another home now. Oh, don’t get me wrong — I love my sister-in-law and there’s no discord between us. I just needed some time to adjust to the fact that my brother’s priorities had changed, which meant ours had to as well.
This is what Marla Miniano’s latest book, From This Day Forward, talks about — how the lives of the people around the couple are also changed once two people decide to get married. Similar to one of her previous books, Table for Two, From This Day Forward contains interconnected stories that revolve around a major catalyst: main characters Nala and Nicholas’ decision to get married. There’s the story of Nala’s mom when Nala tells her that she was engaged, and Nicholas’ mom who goes off to see an old flame after finding out about the engagement. There’s Nala’s best friend, who lost the guy she loved and could never get him back, to Nala’s cousin who had a complicated relationship with her boyfriend’s best friend…who is also incidentally, the groom. The stories are told in different formats and styles — the straightforward storytelling, third and second person POV, poetry, letters and diary entries — but all revolving around the two main characters, their families and their friends.
If you’ve read Marla’s Table for Two, From This Day Forward has a pretty similar structure, but instead of absolutely random characters who have little connections, we have a cast that have better connections with each other. I liked that about this book, and I felt that it was easier to get into the story of these people because of the closer connections. As usual, there’s a certain elegance with the way Marla writes, each word chosen with care to deliver the right punch, but not too flowery that it feels too dramatic. I reveled in these words, and the characters jumped out at me, almost like they were real people instead of just people from a 144-page book. It feels like readers will relate to a bit of each story here, or maybe even find a friend in one of the characters.
I liked From This Day Forward a bit more than I liked Table for Two because of the stronger connections, although I felt that the last story could have tied up the loose ends from the other characters better. But if we were to be realistic, anyway, when did loose ends in life ever tie up neatly? I liked how Marla ended the book with a quote from her first novel, almost like she was paying a homage of sorts to where she started:
Matter occupies space, and I know — I guess I always have — that I can only have space for the things that matter.
After reading this book, I realized that I have become a Marla Miniano completist too. :) I guess it was the right timing too because soon after I got this, I met her in person when I attended her Letters Out Loud event and had my copy signed:
So if you’re looking for a quick, romantic and sentimental read, or if you have someone close to you who’s tying the knot soon and you’re feeling some kind of jitters but don’t know why, then you probably want to pick up a copy of From This Day Forward. :)
My copy: paperback, bought from Book Sale