Anti-Valentine’s Day: Ten Disastrous Literary Relationships

February 9, 2016 Top Ten Tuesday 63

Disastrous Literary Relationships


I generally get turned off by too much romance in books and I’m just not a Valentine’s Day person in general (Hallmark holiday, anyone?). And, similar to New Year’s Eve, you’re expected to go have a romantic dinner with your significant other, but you can’t find a babysitter and most restaurants run prix fixe menus where your choice is limited, yet you pay double its regular cost.

So…instead of a sappy list of the most romantic couples in books, I give you the Anti-Valentine’s Day list of Most Disastrous Literary Relationships. Bring on the dysfunction…

10 Disastrous Literary Relationships

Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis
Nothing says romance like a teenage girl who literally eats her love interests. There’s more than one disastrous relationship in this book.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Obvious, but how can you NOT include Nick and Amy Dunne?! 

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Affairs, affairs, affairs! Yes, that can lead to disaster. I didn’t actually like this book, but it certainly belongs on the “most disastrous relationships” list.

Indiscretion by Charles Dubow
A solid marriage can usually withstand a new friend entering the circle. The consequences of this social addition are tragic.

The Great Santini by Pat Conroy
Pair an abusive husband and father with an enabler wife whose primary concern is keeping up appearances and you get the dysfunctional Meacham marriage. Bonus points for Bull Meacham being based on Pat Conroy’s real-life father.

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
I imagine bachelor parties are frequently points of contention in marriages…but nothing quite like this one.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman
Nate Piven and pretty much every girl he ever dated. This look at what a decently successful New York male in his 20’s looks for in a woman (and the differences in male and female relationship behavior) is liable to make a single woman never want to dip her toes in the New York dating pool again.

The Truth And Other Lies by Sascha Arango
A marriage will no doubt face difficulties when the wife is the actual author of the husband’s bestselling novels.

The Two Mrs. Grenvilles by Dominick Dunne
The fictional Ann Grenville is based on the real life socialite Ann Woodward, who shot her husband, Billy, claiming she mistook him for an intruder.

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer
Wife abandons her own literary talent to spend a life coddling her gigantic man-baby of a husband…just imagine the pent-up resentment simmering in Joan Castleman.

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63 Responses to “Anti-Valentine’s Day: Ten Disastrous Literary Relationships”

  1. Kay

    Um…yes…what’s with the ‘Michael’ haters? And any Texas girl has got to read a book or story that has Armadillo in the title. LOL

    Love your Anti-Valentine list!

    • admin

      Can’t tell you the secret to the Michael haters – would ruin those story for those who plan to read it! But, it’s good!

    • admin

      I finished it this morning and really, really liked it..even though short stories are usually a tough sell for me!

  2. carrie

    lol, I love the idea of Anti-Valentines Day books! I completely agree with you that too much romance is just blahh to me. I’ve read a few Nichols Sparks books that all my girlfriends raved about and was annoyed half way through all of them. I enjoy much much more a complicated and twisted relationship.

    • admin

      I think I used to enjoy romance…and certainly read some Nicholas Sparks back in the day. But, for some reason it’s really hard for romance to come off as anything but cheesy to me now. Have no idea why. But, I do think complicated and twisted relationships make for meatier stories!

  3. Katie McD @ Bookish Tendencies

    Okay I’m pretty sure I need to read Bones and All… like now. I am like you, not into Valentine’s day AT ALL. I don’t think The Hubs and I have celebrated, or even acknowledged the holiday one time since we’ve started dating, so I hear you there. Although no one can argue the Valentine’s candy is pretty up there on the good list… those gummy cinnamon heart things get me every time…

    • admin

      Oooh – nice arrangement! Good call on that one! We’re in the place of neither one of us are big Vday people and we definitely never brave the restaurant scene, but I still feel like I have to acknowledge it in some little way.

      And – I actually didn’t really love Bones & All…had a great start, but kind of went off the rails for me.

  4. Naomi

    Great first paragraph. It really makes me want to know what’s going to happen, what Michael is about to come and ruin their lives?
    Also, good idea to make an anti-Valentine’s list – sometimes it’s a lot easier to come up with disaster relationships in books than ones that work out. Off the top of my head, a couple others you could add are The Silent Wife and Madame Bovary. Hausfrau is perfect.

  5. Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library

    This is an awesome take on the topic! I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day (though I am a fan of discounted chocolate on the 15th) and we generally stay home because I’m not finding a babysitter and fighting crowds for a nothing holiday and I do like romance novels and Hallmark movies! Gone Girl is the dysfunctional couples to end all dysfunctional couples! It took me forever to agree to watch the movie even though I was happy with the casting because I just wasn’t sure I wanted to enter their crazy world again.

  6. Shaina

    This is an AWESOME spin on the Top Ten Tuesday topic! Agree with many you included. Maybe I missed this review, but how did you feel about BONES & ALL? I was not crazy about it myself.

  7. Laurel-Rain Snow

    Wow! That is an amazing excerpt that makes me want to read more. Thanks for sharing…and for visiting my blog.

    Love the dysfunctional anti-Valentine’s Day books!

  8. Athira

    Why They Run the Way They Do sounds fabulous! I wonder what’s in that family’s history. Cannot wait to hear what you think.

    And oh yeah, Nick and Amy should be in that list many times over.

    • admin

      Just finished Why They Run the Way They Do…and I really really liked it! One of 2 short story collections that have really worked for me…ever.

  9. Literary Feline

    Wonderful list of disastrous couples, Sarah! I considered putting Nick and Amy on my list of most memorable couples, but decided against it. 🙂

    I am glad you are enjoying Why They Run the Way They Do. I liked the excerpt you shared and now I’m running through all the Michaels I know besides the ones mentioned. 🙂

    • admin

      I totally think Nick and Amy could have gone on the most memorable list! Just memorable in a more screwed up way…

  10. Andi

    First off, BEST idea for a list EVER. I was looking through at the books I’m not familiar with, and of course, “Nothing says romance like a teenage girl who literally eats her love interests,” got my attention IMMEDIATELY. This is totally going on my library list.

    • admin

      Thank you – although Broke and Bookish deserves some of the credit for that idea. They’re Valentine’s Day post guidelines led me there.

      So…Bones & All…it was totally unique and I really loved the beginning, but it kind of went off the rails for me towards the end. Quick read, though.

  11. Carmen

    Well, I agree with everyone here on the anti-Valentine idea; it’s brilliant.
    Of course I would keep reading to find out what’s up with Michael. Though I thought it may be either a baby Michael who died or a lover named Michael. Can you please let me know? I would seriously like to know.

    • admin

      I’ll let you know offline…don’t want to spoil it here for anyone who is planning to read this!

  12. Margot @ Joyfully Retired

    I’m a short story fan and this taste of it makes me want to get the book. I sure want to know why Carrie and Dan have such a fixation on all the Michaels.

    I love your anti-Valentine. You are so creative.

    • admin

      I finished the collection this morning and really, really liked it! And I’m not usually a fan of short stories…I def recommend you give it a shot! It’s out on 2/16.

      And, thank you 🙂 I rarely feel creative, so I appreciate that!

    • admin

      Neither am I, but this one totally worked for me (finished it this morning)! I think it’s a good collection for people who aren’t normally into short stories or want to give them a try for the first time.

  13. Sandra Nachlinger

    Short stories are so much fun, especially when I have a lot of things going on in my life. It’s nice to be able to sit down and read a complete story in one sitting. I like the opening to the story you selected and would definitely keep reading to find out more about the Michaels.
    My Tuesday post features THE GIVER.

    • admin

      I agree – I read a story or two per day with this collection…in the midst of reading another nonfiction.

  14. Sarah R

    Your top ten is great. We’re not huge V-day celebrators here. Lately it’s been more about the kids and having an excuse to celebrate ANYTHING in the middle of winter!

    I am looking forward to what you think of the short story collection. I usually can’t get into short stories, but this one has me intrigued.

    • admin

      I hear you on the kids! Which reminds me I need to stuff 30 Valentine’s into envelopes for my kids to take to school. So fun.

      And – I’m normally not good with short stories, but I think this collection is great for people like us or those what want to try them for the first time. It’s one of 2 short story collections that have really worked for me overall….ever.

  15. Catherine

    I’m with you on the whole Valentine’s Day extravaganza. My favorite part- the day after when I buy chocolate at half price!

    Your list is great and the description of The Guest Room made me burst out laughing! Classic.

    And Dominick Dunne?! I miss him so much. OMG- you could add Swans to this list because of Bill Paley! Although she did get some gorgeous jewelry. 😉

    • admin

      YES to the candy!! I hope my kids bring home some good loot from school!

      And – I should had included Swans! Literally didn’t cross my mind, but really all their marriages were pretty disastrous in my mind. Big fat fail on that one!!

      I miss DD dearly! He was so delicious! I think I’ve read every single book he ever wrote.

    • admin

      Me too – this is only the second one that’s worked for me from start to finish ever!

  16. Heather

    I was going to do an anti-Valentine’s post, but then I couldn’t actually think of any books I wanted to include. The closest I got was coming up with a few books that have love, but sad/tragic endings. I felt ok about that 🙂

    I really like your list – ‘Bones & All’ sounds particularly intriguing.

  17. Kelly

    Ha, fantastic list! Gone Girl, Indiscretion, Hausfrau, the Wife…I’ve read those and they are spot-on for this category. I’m adding some of the others to my TBR, because I just love a crazy marriage-gone-wrong scenario! (Probably shouldn’t tell my husband that? Ha!)

    • admin

      I’m the same – love the dysfunctional marriage/family books! Always makes for interesting dynamics!

  18. Trish

    Ha!!! Great topic! I haven’t read many of these books (ok, I’ve only read Gone Girl) but I can think of some others that have terrible relationships as well. Sometimes it just makes for a really great read!

  19. Tanya @ Mom's Small Victories

    Lol fantastic book list idea! I am a total sap and love romantic movies but in books not so much. I don’t like books to be overly sappy, but don’t mind if romance plays a supporting role in the story. And when I saw the list, I immediately thought Gone Girl too.

    • admin

      You know, I do love some romance in TV and movies…especially a good love triangle, but would LOATHE a love triangle in a book. Why is that?! Maybe it’s easier for the romance to come off as cheesy in a book? I’m not sure…

  20. Judy

    Best. Top. Ten. List. Ever!!! My husband will never live down the day he said, “Valentine’s Day? Do we celebrate that?”
    I don’t generally read short stories so. Michael was the name of my first true love. And I love the movie “Michael” where John Travolta plays an angel and keeps saying, “I invented that.”

    • admin

      Thank you! I wish someone had just not invented Valentine’s Day…and I especially wished that while I was stuffing 30 Valentine’s for my kids’ classes.

  21. Amanda

    I love this Sarah! As soon as I saw your title I thought of Hausfrau. I am now obsessed with the Valley of the Dolls so I’d suggest that one too!

    • admin

      Thank you! And I read that years ago and remember really loving it, but I don’t remember much about it! Maybe I need to re-read it, especially if it fits this category 🙂

  22. Kathy @ Kathy Reads Fiction

    I just finished The Guest Room and loved it! I’ve read three others on the list: Gone Girl, Bones and All, and Hausfrau (really liked them all). I still have The Great Santini and Truth and Other Lies to get to eventually (I’ve heard this one by Conroy is a must read).

    I sort of like the first paragraph of Why They Run the Way They Do. I think I’d keep reading to see where it goes. I’m not a short stories fan, but I am still waiting on my library hold to come in and give American Housewife a chance.

    • admin

      You absolutely need to read The Great Santini…you know I’m obsessed with Conroy, but that book has stood the test of time for me!

      Good luck with American Housewife!

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  1. 25 Things This Week –

    […] We were heavily into #CrazyLoveStories this week on the blog, ending with There’s All Kinds of #CrazyLove in Books. But we weren’t the only ones – check out Anti-Valentine’s Day: Ten Disastrous Literary Relationships. […]

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