The Commitment is at times a very uncomfortable read, and I mean this in the best possible way.
Lacey fell in love with Jen almost at first sight, when she came to work at Spring Creek living museum. At the time, Jen was as good as married and her partner was pregnant. Eight years later, Jen and Lacey, now the mother of a young girl, are engaged but their relationship is unconventional. They’re best friends, convinced they’re doing what’s best for both of them and Lacey’s child. Can you will yourself to fall in love? Even though to the outside world, they look like the perfect couple, they’ve never had sex and believe the other isn’t attracted enough to them, but that both are willing to try.
One of the things I love about this book is that Hale isn’t afraid to stray from the usual romance path. Her characters are extremely frustrating at times, but for once it’s not because they’re lazily written, quite the opposite. The starting point of their love story is precarious and they struggle to get to a more traditional relationship. Miscommunication comes from respecting the other’s feelings rather than assumptions, except in one instance, which felt a tiny bit contrived.
One of Jen’s hang-ups derives from not loving her own body anymore, after Crohn’s Disease made surgery necessary, and she’s now living with a stoma. I really liked the way Hale writes that part of the story, the insecurities, the trust. Both Jen and Lacey need to find more love for themselves in order to be able to either love or allow themselves to be loved.
The most challenging part of this story is that the characters believe they don’t have chemistry, yet the reader must feel it. The author dealt with it brilliantly. Unbeknownst to the two women, the connection is obvious in every touch, every interaction, and when they finally realise it, it’s well worth the wait.
I also love that Virginia Hale didn’t feel the need to make her writing more neutral, easier on non-Australian readers. The context makes the maybe-unusual words completely understandable. Between the living museum and the writing, the atmosphere is unusual and exciting.
All in all, great writing and a story that will take you in unexpected directions.