“I tell you this during another night of living next to you without having said what was on our minds… Love doesn’t look too closely.”
~ Philip Lopate, “The Ecstasy”
You fall in love. A love so deep you can’t imagine anything going wrong. And so you decide to get married, both of you convinced that your future together will be perfect. But what if you discover that the future you envision isn’t the same as your spouse? Did something change? Or did someone change? Or is it that you didn’t communicate your version of the future well? Or at all?
“What Love Becomes” by Jan Marin Tramontano, explores these issues and more. It’s a heady character driven novel that shows what happens when young love just isn’t enough.
Before getting into the novel, I’m excited to share that I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ms. Tramontano, as she is a local! That’s right, a published writer right here in our neighborhood. I’ll get into our conversation in a bit, but first a synopsis of “What Love Becomes.”
Willow and Denny seem like the perfect couple, she with her sunny disposition and he totally devoted to her. But Denny is different when he returns from the Persian Gulf War. Willow yearns for children, but Denny is convinced the pills given to him during the war will harm their unborn baby, something playing out with their friends Tess and Joe. These two divergent points of view widen to the point of no return and create a crisis neither could imagine.
Blake and Jillian are another seemingly perfect couple. Blake is an easy-going man who strongly supports his wife, Jillian, and her dream of becoming a ballerina. The dream is hamstringed and so Jillian settles to family life, having a daughter and getting a job. But Jillian is unhappy about losing her ballet life. Blake watches as Jillian becomes a secondary character in their own family, alienating herself from their daughter and him. Blake doesn’t search for love outside his marriage but then he finds “the one” and love finds him.
“What Love Becomes” details the beginning, middle and end of these two marriages and shows how fighting to save a marriage doesn’t mean it can – or should – be saved. Rounding out these two couples is Lily Lerner, a journalist who insinuates herself in the couple’s lives, yet is going through her own relationship angst as well.
One of the first questions I asked Jan was, “Where do you get your ideas?” because to me, “What Love Becomes” is a big idea. Jan tells me she likes to write about things people don’t know so that she can shed light on them. She came across information on the pills that Persian Gulf War soldiers were given and became interested in learning more. She was also considering a book about marriage and what can happen when outside influences affect the trajectory of your life (like coming home from a war). Another area of interest: exploring the choices we make when young, many of them wrong or misguided.
Jan also shares that she enjoys the research aspect of a book as it was an integral part of her “former” life. And that dedication to research shows in the details she provides on the Persian Gulf War, ballet, journalism, nursing, teaching and even commune living (yep, that’s what I said and it’s some of the most fun parts of the book). “What Love Becomes” doesn’t just provoke reflection but it educates as well.
Getting “What Love Becomes” published was truly a labor of love for Jan. She weathered criticism by sticking to her guns – she knew what kind of book she wanted to put out there. And while she could have edited the soul out of it to please a larger publisher, Adelaide Books allowed her the freedom to keep everything she loved intact.
What I liked most about “What Love Becomes” is that as Jan said, the characters tried. They didn’t know when they were young that they had different ideas on what their marriage or family would look like. They just assumed their spouse was on the same page. But they weren’t. And it’s hard to watch it unravel, especially as we see the writing on the wall before they do. And that is because Jan had a deft hand in crafting it that way. My favorite character was Lily and I can’t even explain why, except that maybe it’s because we witness the unraveling and stitching back together of her own complicated relationship.
Attention Marco & Naples Book Clubs: Jan is available to be a part of your book club! It’s not every day you get to read a book AND have the author there during discussions. “What Love Becomes” even has a Book Club Discussions Guide at the end of the book to assist. If my short phone conversation is any indication, you will be charmed and delighted talking with Jan about her book. I definitely was, and look forward to her next one (poetry this time) so we can chat again.
Thank you for reading!
Lynn Alexander is a recently published author and long-time book, food, cat and college football lover (Go Green!). Her career journey started in upstate New York, writing and recording commercials for radio. She moved to Venice, Florida to manage a restaurant which led her to Naples and Marco in 2002, where she currently books weddings and events for a local resort. Alexander is a Leadership Marco 2015 alum which fed her passion for history and learning. A butterfly at parties but a loner at heart, she loves nothing more than baking yummy desserts then retreating to a quiet corner to read.