Love, If That’s What It Is
Falling in and out of love—a sharp and unsettling modern take on the meaning of it all
Terri runs off with a lover, abandoning her children and her marriage of twenty-five years. Her husband, David, is left to take care of their two daughters, one of whom is falling in love for the first time. These four people start to question their identity outside the nuclear family. What remains of a disintegrated home, and what changes? Marijke Schermer’s Love, If That’s What It Is gives a kaleidoscopic view of a divorce, permitting the reader to enter the heads of not only the spouses, but also of the two daughters and the divorcees’ new lovers. Through several characters, the reader is presented with just as many views on relationships, while Schermer remains impartial and thus confronts readers with their own—perhaps shaky—romantic principles. What is love? With fresh flair and provocative perspectives, Schermer manages to provide an original and versatile answer.
Marijke Schermer is a novelist and playwright. Her stage work has been performed by several companies and translated into various languages … Read more
Book Club Questions
- Did you enjoy Love, If That’s What It Is? In what way?
- Did you have a favorite couple?
- Did they stay together? If not, did you want them to?
- What kinds of love did the book portray? Can they be divided into rough categories?
- Was any one kind favored, or were there inescapable downsides to all of them?
- Which of the characters could you relate to most? Did this change as the story progressed?
- Did reading about him or her make you discover something about the roles you have played in your own relationships?
- Is there a type of “mistake” that can be detected in most of the relationships portrayed?
- Might the localization of guilt ever provide a solution to any of the relationship issues in the book? Or does blaming always do more harm than good?
- Is it the age difference that produces the very different attitudes Krista and Ally have to their parents’ separation?
- Was Terri selfish?
- Was sex the decisive factor in any of the separations (or new relationships) in the book?
- How can Sev’s and Terri’s endings be compared?
- How can David’s and Lucas’s endings be compared?
- In toto, did the book end happily?
- Was there a minor character you would have wanted to get to know better?
- Would you be interested in reading more by Marijke Schermer?
Praise for Love, If That’s What It Is
“The author expertly humanizes each of the characters’ desires and flaws as she illuminates the raw, inner workings of a broken marriage. This is as cathartic as it is gut-churning. … A scintillating debut.”
“Insightful and engrossing.”
“In Love, If That’s What It Is Marijke Schermer dissects ordinary family life so subtly and yet so vibrantly, that it leaves you out of breath and makes you reevaluate your own most self-evident assumptions.”
ROXANE VAN IPEREN, author of The High Nest
“Marijke Schermer flawlessly analyzes how love takes its course.”
“On every page Schermer excels with sentences that seem ordinary, but are packed with meaning. After every striking sentence, I had to put the book down for a while. This book is about love—if that’s what it is, of course—and who has not become love’s victim?”
“Schermer’s technical ingenuity traps you, making you question your standards, assumptions, and blind spots. This is a big and definitive, but also investigative, story about love. Schermer is fast becoming one of the most interesting writers in the Netherlands.”
“Schermer’s fresh style adds something really new to the mountain of stories about falling in love, unhappy marriages, cheating, and heartbreak—she seems to have cleared the dust of the whole theme.”
“Love, If That’s What It Is has the potential to become as successful as Herman Koch’s The Dinner.”
“This novel has just as careful and poetic a style and as precise a construction as her previous two. Schermer effortlessly manages to infect you again with the feelings of the novel’s characters.”
Why You Should Read This Book
“Can you retain your individuality within romantic bonds, can you maintain respect for one another when romance turns into habit? Is complete union a primal desire for all, or does it make more sense to have a limited relationship with your lover? I have no answers or strong opinions to offer; I simply wanted to take a closer look at this theme. Closer than we normally would, using fluid, changing perspectives, moving along with all the characters at the same time—I wanted the reader to be right there with them.”
MARIJKE SCHERMER, the author
“My challenge as the translator was to respect the subtle shifts in perspective. Subtlety is the hardest thing to translate well. In a work of art, the empty spaces are often key, and in Schermer’s writing, there is more significance and poignancy in the spaces—the silences—than in the spoken words. It wasn’t until I understood this that I felt able to translate her prose with the respect and admiration it deserves.”
HESTER VELMANS, the translator
“This is one of the best stories on love and divorce I have ever read. Schermer masterfully illuminates the inner workings of each of the members of a family as it comes apart. The perspective keeps shifting, as does the readers’ sympathy for the various characters who are falling in and out of love. Schermer’s disconcerting analysis of love and the way we deal with it is meticulous and razor sharp. This book may forever change the way you look at your own love life.”
JUDITH UYTERLINDE, the publisher