Say You Want Me

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Before meeting the young housewife, Molly Ferro, and her daughter, Hilary, in a park, Brendan Beame would have sworn that his marriage to Lila was flawless. Yet he falls almost instantly in love with this new woman, someone who is an exact opposite of his successful wife. Clearly something is missing in these people’s lives. Brendan needs more than the liberated relationship in which his wife seemingly thrives, for although he loves his son and derives pleasure from spending so much time with him, he finds himself going nowhere in his own career as an artist. Lila has become a self-contained executive, while Molly finds no companionship with her brutish husband, Mike. The only people apparently unaffected by their parents’ difficulties are Jeff and Hilary.

Cohen lets the reader look--sometimes unwillingly--at what goes on beneath the surface of a “perfect” marriage. Although Brendan and Lila both love their child and have worked hard at their marriage, Lila’s career now consumes her energies, leaving her little time for domesticity--or for her family. Although the roles here are reversed, the problem is ageless: What happens to a couple once they gradually fall out of love?

Cohen is skillful at making the problems of parenting, coupling, and uncoupling painfully real, portraying the anger, depression, and self-doubt.

The fight scenes between Lila and Brendan and between Molly and Mike are particularly well-drawn. The aspect of SAY YOU WANT ME that makes it especially worth reading, however, is its treatment of the relationship between Brendan and his young son, Jeff. Cohen shows the reader that it does not matter which parent stays home with the child, for the rewards and frustrations transcend gender boundaries.