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Becoming Strangers    by Louise Dean order for
Becoming Strangers
by Louise Dean
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Kerrily Sapet

Louise Dean's first sentences leap off the page. 'Before he'd had cancer he'd been bored with life. Since he'd taken dying seriously, he'd been busy.' Dean is describing Jan, just one of the many characters in Becoming Strangers. Jan and his wife Annemieke, from the Netherlands, set off to a Caribbean resort, taking their final vacation together. An older English couple, George and Dorothy, also embark on a trip to the same resort, taking their first journey abroad together after years of marriage. Once at the resort, the couples' paths cross.

Both couples face immense pressures in their marriages. Jan and Annemieke have long reaching difficulties, exacerbated by his prolonged battle with cancer. At the resort she quickly slips off to carry out a series of affairs. Nothing new. She has been sleeping with Jan's friend for years. Dorothy, unknown to George, is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. While the couples become friends, their lives, and the lives of others intermingle and touch each other. Dean fills the pages of this book with advice from all angles - from the resort manager, a young married American businessman, workers at the resort, Dorothy's clouded head, and a religious reformed alcoholic.

The characters are painfully human - both falling hard, but also rising up to meet challenges. Becoming Strangers is a love story in some ways. Dean sets out to show that although marriage isn't always happily ever after there are chances to renew and live life again.

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