The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan


“A diamond is forever”

Frances Gerety’s famous tag line for De Beers is the clever link for J. Coutney Sullivan’s latest novel.  Part Mad Men-esque fictionalized memoir of Gerety and part novel about marriage,  The Engagements is smart and well written.  It will hook you and keep you reading.  I wanted each of the five stories told to be a novel by itself, but as I turned the last few pages, I realized the richness of telling all of these stories together.  Despite the diamonds, this isn’t a quick beach read, and I was delighted with the substance.

We meet:

George and Evelyn, well to do and together for 30 years, trying to come to terms with their son’s pending divorce and new girlfriend in the early 1970s.

James and Sheila, a down on his luck EMT and nurse trying to make ends meet in Boston, in love despite their parents’ opinions.

Kate and Dan, living together with their three-year old, but never planning to marry, helping Kate’s gay cousins plan their nuptials.

Delphine and Henri,   antique musical instrument dealers in Paris, navigating a new musician in their lives.

A diamond engagement ring appears in each story, tying the characters together–a technique I didn’t pick up on until about halfway through the book.  It was a pleasant surprise each time the ring appeared. 

Sullivan’s characters are well-developed.  They are not all likeable, but they create some beautiful examples of compassion and forgiveness.   I could see the choices they would make coming, but couldn’t always tell whether or not they would be caught.   Sullivan has a definite sociological slant and is without judgement-there is no inkling of better or worse from the author, but more a history of the different situations in which people find themselves, how some opinions change over years, and how some just don’t.  The Engagements is a worthy read.  After such a good book, finding my next read will be a challenge.

The Falmouth Memorial Library owns a copy of The Engagements.