The Marriage Act by John Marrs

Picture shows the cover of the book The Marriage Act by John Marrs.

This is hands down the scariest book I’ve ever read – and it’s not even a horror book!

The reason it’s so scary is because this dystopia feels not only believable, but imminent.

It’s set in their near future, and begins with the on screen death of Britain’s most popular influencer, Jem Jones.

This influencer was a big proponent of something called The Marriage Act. This act gives couples (however they are matched in terms of gender and sexual orientation) the chance to upgrade their marriage, which would give them benefits such as special treatment through the NHS, a house in a better area, and financial tax benefits as well.

As part of this marriage upgrade, couples wear a device on their wrist that will intermittently record the couple’s remarks to one another.

The idea behind this is to offer the couple a few words of advice when things aren’t being handled well.

And as soon as their marriage starts to sound troubled, they have a Relationship First Responder move in with them for several weeks to determine whether they will stay together or be forced to divorce.

Jem Jones is believed by the Brits to have killed herself after being heavily trolled on social media. And her passing has a dramatic effect on society.

The story is told from multiple points of view, which really helps make the story well rounded.

There’s Anthony who has an upgraded marriage, but has also had a strange relationship with Jem Jones. The true nature of which is not spelled out until the last few scenes of the book.

Anthony goes to meetings where government officials declare that the next step in their plan is to send underperforming kids away to juvenile custody schools.

They’re effectively trying to deliberately create a two-tier society. And of course, there are those that want to rebel, and rebel they do, including attempting to take the life of an MP.

The novel goes into the intricacies of various marriages throughout. Including that of Corrine (one of the rebels) and Mitchell. Corrine and Mitchell and clearly over, but they are still together so that the kids can get ahead.

Corrine can’t wait to separate from Mitchell when the kids go away to uni, but Mitchell tricks her into upgrading their marriage.

There’s also the story of Roxi and Owen. Roxi had always admired Jem Jones, and now that she’s gone, wants to pick up where she left off. No matter what that does to her upgraded family.

Roxi believes her husband is having an affair, and decides to video herself confronting the femme fatale, but things really don’t go to plan.

And if all that’s not enough, there’s also a serial killer – who it turns out is a trusted Relationship Responder! They clearly hadn’t done a good psych evaluation there!

Better yet, a good portion of the tale is told through the point of view of the serial killer, and you get a real insight on what made him turn out the way he did, adding to the believability of the story.

In addition to all the relationship and family tension, there’s also plenty of action too. Attempted murder, and murder.

Rectifying the issues caused by the Marriage Act is quite the fight for everyone who’s against it. There are plenty of twists and turns throughout the book, and the reader finds themselves on tenterhooks, wondering what’s next for these likeable and relatable characters. 

I felt that the story was very timely for British readers, given some of the political phrases that are being used, such as “strong and stable” and “build back better”, and references to repeated pandemics.

There was a powerful ending to the story, and once your attention has been captured in those first few pages, you’ll find yourself racing to it. Highly recommended!

Link to book on Amazon

Book Review from Cari Mayhew


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Book blogger, excitement conveyor, and information forager.

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