It's so much a cliche in contemporary fiction, that you can almost assume it's the plot of every new novel: the suburban couple, mind-numbingly unhappy, despite their perfect home and family. In some cases writers are able to create successful characters, regardless of the trappings of their stereotype, while others are crushed by the weight of it.
In A Thousand Pardons, Jonathan Dee seems quite aware of the fact that he is writing a familiar frame from the beginning. Rather than giving readers a painstakingly detailed account of the missteps that lead Helen and Ben to a therapist's couch for their "Date Night", Dee describes with amazing subtlety the monotony that can come with several decades of a marriage. He is then quick to cut to the big event that leads to their separation, putting the major plot in motion. Helen thrives in her newly single position, and the pace of the novel does, too. Unfortunately, the characters' behaviors in the second half of the novel seem to steer off track, hanging ever close to the cliches Dee worked to avoid. Still, as a whole, A Thousand Pardons is a refreshing story outside what you'd expect from a seemingly usual suspect.