Apart at the Seams Book Tour

I read the first two books (Life from Scratch and Measure of Love) in Melissa Ford’s series during the months after Prop 8 was struck down in California and I was trying to decide if I wanted to get married. I really appreciated the discussion of marriage and what it means to different people at different times in their lives and relationships, so I was excited to read the third installment–Apart at the Seams–and continue the discussion where it left off in the second book.

Knowing that Arianna never wants to get married, why do you think Ethan kept pushing the idea rather than compromising?

I wondered this myself as I was reading the book. I think, for some people, marriage is the default final step, and they don’t know how to define their relationship without the traditions involved with getting married. Making that commitment is almost the easier thing to do, because the steps are so well established, you hardly have to think for yourself what any of it even means to you; the expectation that you’ll get married allows you to avoid really considering what it even means. Without taking those next steps, a couple has to define their relationship for themselves–and others. That can be hard to do and can require a self-awareness, and an awareness of social customs and norms, that not everyone has. I think ultimately Ethan didn’t think he was asking Arianna for more than was his right–he couldn’t understand her desire not to get married and since he fell within society’s norms by wanting to get married, he may have even felt like he didn’t have to. Getting married was the next step and he wanted their commitment defined in ways that were easily established by marriage. I also wonder if Arianna’s inability to explain her aversion to marriage made him keep harping on teh subject. Perhaps he thought she would easily change her mind, since she couldn’t make him understand why she felt the way he did.

As a reader I felt distanced and came away with the impression that I only knew what Arianna wanted me to know. I wasn’t convinced that she knew herself, or possibly even trusted herself all that much. I questioned her motivation and felt she “settled,” which made me sad. I feel no one should settle. Do you feel she was settling?

I appreciate this question because I also came away from the book feeling like I didn’t really get to know, or understand, Arianna fully. I understood many aspects of her–her desire to produce creatively, her drive to make a name for herself in her industry, her need to feel financially secure, the ways in which she was drawn to Noah and felt nourished by her friendship with him–but I never felt like I understood her relationship with Ethan or why she seemed so sure she loved him and wanted to be with him. In the end I wanted her to get together with Noah, even though I recognized that their relationship wouldn’t be sustainable in in the long term (Noah didn’t seem like the type who would be supportive to a single mother of a small child), because I just didn’t understand what Ethan was bringing to the table that made him worth looking past the issues they were having (and it seemed, would continue to have). I also had the feeling that she was settling with Ethan, that she could have found someone who would have been a better fit for her. I understand the idea that opposites attract, and that ultimately Arianna believed they would be able to ground each other instead of holding each other back, but I just didn’t feel like she felt as passionately toward Ethan as he did toward her (or she did toward Noah, for that matter).

I identified with some details of Arianna’s daily life, life how she had to tidy up the kitchen because Ethan could not wash his cereal bowl, but he would complain about how she was always busying herself in the kitchen. Or how he was perfectly alright sitting in a living room full of scattered toys, as if they were non existent. My husband is a willing participant in doing the house chores, but he is still to appropriate my motto “do the small things now, so they do not reach big things status”. On the other hand, I admire Arianna’s ability to see the other’s possible point of view right away, I first explode, and then think about anything else. 🙂  What did you identify with, and what is something you will never be able to pull off?

I identified with many of the same things in the book. I cringed at the scene when Ethan chided her for busying herself in the kitchen when he hadn’t cleaned up after himself. I was actually really upset that she didn’t speak up and SAY SOMETHING to put him in his place (as I surely would have done). That aspect of their relationship really hit close to home for me and I wonder if it negatively colored the way I saw them (that dynamic is one of the most destructive in my own marriage). I also recognized that Arianna dealt with those scenarios–and many others–in ways that I never would. She was much more likely to internalize frustration and disappointment whereas I generally voice those feelings, sometimes without considering–or downright disregarding–consequences. I was careful to take note of how her method worked (or didn’t) for her and wondered if I would benefit from similarly bottling up feelings of resentment or confusion or sadness. In the end I think we both tend to veer too far to our own ends of the spectrum, and that Arianna would benefit from speaking her mind more, while I would benefit from sitting on things for a few days instead of blurting them out in the heat of the moment.

Does it bother you when a sequel requires reading other the other books in the series? I generally like to be able to jump in anywhere, but I felt that Apart At The Seams wouldn’t make much sense (in terms of Arianna’s and Rachel’s relationship) unless you have read the previous book(s).  Do you prefer series books that can stand on their own, or do you like the serialized aspect where you must read the books in order?

I really like series and I ALWAYS want to start with the first book. I could never skip books in a series, even if I had heard that later books are better than earlier installments. I agree that this book wouldn’t stand as well on it’s own as I expected, given it’s not actually a sequel but a parallel novel. There was much (maybe everything?) about Arianna and Rachel’s friendship that needed further explanation without knowledge of the first books. As someone who always reads previous installments first, this didn’t bother me, but I could understand how it would if you wanted to read this book without finishing the others first.

12 responses

  1. I thought about you while reading the book, especially in light of the first question you responded to — I’m so glad you addressed it.

    I appreciate your point about marriage being a default setting, and that choosing to get married (never mind to whom) takes conscious thought.

    I’m so glad you are part of this tour!

  2. First and foremost, thank you for reading the book.

    I think the sequel question is interesting. It would never occur to me to read a later book in a series without reading the first books. Maybe the one exception is the Narnia series — I read them as Lewis asked them to be read vs. the actual order of the books. I’ll admit that I also rarely start a series unless I have the intention of finishing the series.

  3. Your response to the second question said exactly what I was feeling.
    “I came away feeling like I didn’t really get to know, or understand, Arianna fully.”

    I, too, wanted her to get together with Noah. But I could see that he might be a temporary solution to a deeper problem. I just like the way he made her feel about herself and her work. He supported her in a way that Ethan didn’t seem to be able to do.

    When you said, “I just didn’t feel like she felt as passionately toward Ethan as he did toward her (or she did toward Noah, for that matter).” – that was right on the money for me. I definitely feel she settled.

  4. I felt like Ethan’s desire to get married was kind of a default move as well, especially since they had moved in together. In the end though, I was disappointed and felt like both Arianna and Ethan were settling. Who has an opportunity to make their career dreams come true and then squanders it because their partner isn’t supportive? Most people I would guess, but it still made me angry that Arianna was standing on the cusp of something huge career-wise and she pretty much threw it away.

  5. I was concerned before reading Apart at the Seams that I would be lost because I did not read the other books in the series. However, I feel that this book does indeed stand on it’s own. I didn’t feel that I was missing out on anything in terms of Rachel and Arianna’s friendship. I was more emotionally vested in Arianna’s relationships with Ethan and Noah and which one she would be with by the end of the story.

  6. I felt that there was parts of Arianna we did not know. I think there was the independence but yet a sense of need such as when she needed help with chores or help with Beckett. The hidden parts of Arianna might have been those traits she was afraid admit as she saw them as character flaws.

    I did not read the first 2 books but definitely will now read them and hopefully the sequel to this book.

    Great post.

  7. I read the first book and have not got around to the second yet! So I can see how this book is enriched by knowing some of the backstory, but at the same time I felt you could probably get away with it on its own – since I didn’t feel I “missed” the second one (though I’m sure having read it would add more).

  8. I do feel like I understood Rachel and Arianna’s friendship better having read the books in order. I actually found Rachel kind of (ok, very) annoying in Apart at the Seams because there’s less of an insight into her own motivations and what she’s experiencing with the remarriage thing.

  9. Pingback: Know Yourself, Honestly

  10. The perspective of marriage as a “default final step” fascinates me… I felt Ethan was comfortable with tradition, and I was fine with this. I also felt he asked Arianna to marry him because he loved her that deeply and knew himself and his motives quite well. I believe that while marriage is a tradition, each is defined by the two people taking their vows together, in other words every marriage differs somewhat within the traditional confines because of the individuals that commit to one another.

    I had not read Melissa’s first two books, and I was fine with that. Apart at the Seams seemed to stand on its own, however after reading some of the wonderful comments I may go back and find I learn more about the closed-up Arianna. 🙂

  11. “I was actually really upset that she didn’t speak up and SAY SOMETHING to put him in his place ” I felt the same way! I feel she could have been more fulfilled in her relationship with Ethan if she’d just spelled out to him exactly want she needed. Though I think she is a bit of an “in her head” type person & I identify with that.

  12. I think I am on of the few who did not like Noah, I found him shallow and not trustworthy. I think he knew quite well how he was encouraging Arianna to “get ideas”, while romancing Bea at the same time. Who sends those kind of flirty texts to someone while falling in love and deciding to start a life together with a completely different person? He only found a cheering public in Arianna, and could not help delivering witty lines, knewing he would get the expected answer from her.
    I also think Arianna lived such a life that did not make her really question herself, what she wants, or who she really is. She is a different person to everyone, but only because she thinks this was expected of her. Cancer changes her mind set, and she realises her instincts in choosing to be with Ethan were right, and that she does love him, and wants to be with him. Ethan is himself all throughout the book, and is not afraid to share wild ideas like the Tibet one, because this is what you do with the person you love, you share your thoughts, and desires. He has no problem telling Arianna that he doesn’t like her to spend so much time in the kitchen, but Arianna has a problem telling him (off :-)) that she was there because of his not picking up his mess, not because she found it so exciting to tidy up he kitchen.
    Luckily, all these are fixable issues. Ethan can learn to not wait for house elves anymore, but out the dirty dishes in the dishloader himself, while Ari can learn to tell him to do that when for some reason the bowl becomes invisible again. Love, that can’t be taught. Ethan waits for her, and is there for her when she needs him. Noah is a flashy, foreign words knower, famous people mingler, who doesn’t even know the woman he intends to propose to, he needs some stranger to come give her opinion on a ring for a woman she knows the measures of.

    And you know how I came to realise all this? By reading everyone’s posts. Your thoughts brought mine in clearer light. This book tour has been such a great experience. 🙂 Thank you.

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