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Review: The Dance by Walsh and Smalley

After 27 years of marriage, Marilyn Anderson is tired of trying to get through to her husband Jim.  Convinced he does not love her, she leaves home to sort out her thoughts and to live a few dreams.

When Jim arrives home and finds Marilyn gone, he is stunned.  A successful businessman, he is sure he has given her everything she could possibly want.  He cannot imagine what is wrong with her.  In fact, he assumes she is having an affair, but his children disagree.  In fact, two of the children are surprised he has never seen how unhappy she was; the other one is just like him.

With the help of an unexpected advisor, Jim comes to understand both himself and his wife, and he learns how to win Marilyn back.

According to my daughter  The Dance reads a bit like a marriage manual and that’s no wonder, since Gary Smalley is a relationships expert.  However, Dan Walsh, the incredible story teller of The Reunion and The Discovery (links are to my reviews), wove this marriage advice into the novel without disrupting the story at all.

Although this is a sweet story, reminiscent of an early Nicholas Sparks novel, it disturbed me because the relationship advice did not seem to match the audience.

The main character of this novel is Jim.  He’s the ogre, he learns, and he changes, and that’s how the relationship is restored.  This story line worked for Sparks because his novel was pure story and therefore gave women hope that their husband could change.   Because Walsh and Smalley include more relationship advice, their book is completely different.  Rather than giving women hope, it gives them yet another list of things their husbands should be learning and doing, another list of reasons to resent them.

The Dance made me think of People Can’t Drive you Crazy if You Don’t Give Them the Keys.  As I pointed out in my review of that book, Bechtle says there are three approaches to difficult relationships: change the other person, change yourself, or leave the situation.  He points out that successfully changing another person is highly unlikely and that leaving the situation is often inappropriate.  These are the two options presented by The Dance:  women are given advice meant for their husbands, encouraging them to try to change their husbands; and they are shown that separation may have a positive effect, encouraging them to try it.  The middle option, changing oneself, could have helped Marilyn right from the beginning of her marriage.  It could have given her strength and wisdom to thrive personally and perhaps to influence her husband.  But this option is not addressed at all.

In my opinion, The Dance may tempt unhappy wives to try either the impossible or the inappropriate solution but it neglects the one positive approach.  I am surprised that such godly and talented authors would include relationship advice aimed at men in a book marketed to women.   

Any woman in a frustrating marriage had better read People Can’t Drive You Crazy before she starts The Dance, but any woman in a stable marriage will enjoy the sweet story of The Dance and perhaps even be able to share some of its insights with her husband.

This is yet another book in the in the 2013 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews.

Disclosure: This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and is available at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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2 Comments

  1. Dan Walsh says:

    Annie,

    I appreciate your thoughtful review of The Dance. Obviously, I disagree with some of the concerns you’re raising, but I think I understand where you’re coming from. To clarify one thing, Gary and I wrote this novel intending it to be sort of a 50/50 emphasis, that is, for husbands and wives, not a book for husbands marketed to woman. Or a book to fill women in a frustrating marriage with ammo to leave their husbands.

    The marketing department made the call to create a cover that, clearly, more targets women. We would have preferred a more neutral cover. They were deferring to the marketplace reality that 80% of fiction readers are women, not men. The hope is, that women will read this and be stirred to start a dialogue with their husbands BEFORE they take things to the place Marilyn did. And that husbands, if they would read it, and if they are taking their wives for granted (sadly, many are), it would serve as a wake-up call to reengage with their wives and possibly even get some much needed help.

    It is true in this story, the husband seems more at fault for the underlying problems in the relationship. Both Gary and I have extensive experience in marriage counseling (Gary has way more than me), and that has been our experience. Men are often far less aware of how things are really going, and often don’t listen to their wives at a heart level.

    Marilyn has another problem, which is, she is far too passive and has not voiced her concerns with Jim in a way that has gotten his attention. For years. Not all Christian wives are like this, but some are. No Christian novel depicting a single-family can hope to address the problems every marriage faces. Life is far too complex for that. There is no one-size-fits-all solution and our book is only addressing some of the issues some couples actually do face in their relationships.

    The other three books will address other challenges marriages and families face. And I’m sure when we do, some of what we cover will connect solidly with some people and not connect as well with others. As for The Dance, I’ve already received dozens of emails from women who’ve connected very well with Marilyn. None of them suggested the book caused them to want to leave their husbands. It had just the opposite effect on them.

    And many of them said it’s cause them to want to get the book Gary wrote with his sons that we mention at the back of the book, which addresses all these issues in a far more comprehensive way.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Thank you so much for addressing my concerns, Dan. I knew you and Gary had the right motives, and I understand where you are coming from.

      It’s just that I’ve seen so many women so disappointed in their husbands and just this month heard of another one who left. The husband has no idea why, just as in your book. And there is no ‘secret ally’ to help them out…unless I can convince him to read this book. But that cover won’t help. Sigh!

      I’m still firmly convinced that any woman in a troubled marriage needs a resource like People Can’t Drive You Crazy to help her deal with issues like this, and that she should not follow Marilyn’s example. I’m glad your feedback shows that many women respond positively to your message.

      May God bless you as you continue this series and use your talents to strengthen the family. May he also provide you with more suitable covers.

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