My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged is a romantic fantasy for anyone who has ever wanted to have their beer and drink it, too. Surprisingly sweet, the story follows the course of an adulterous affair between two ordinary people confronting the changes that aging brings to the experience of love and sexuality. With humor and honesty, my novel explores the pleasures and pitfalls of the adulterous relationship: the crudity of the courtship, the raw sexuality that ultimately lapses into monotony, and, inevitably, the bittersweet farewell.
Lori Schafer is an eclectic writer, mainly focusing on romance, erotica and memoir. This year she is celebrating the publications of two of her novels, adding to a list of short stories already available in print/ online.
I’d like to start by thanking Lori for sending me a copy of her book in exchange for an honest review. It’s always a pleasure to be approached by authors and entrusted with their hard work. So, Lori and booky readers, this is what I honestly thought of My Life with Michael.
To me, this book felt like two books written separately and spliced together somewhere in the middle. Let me explain. The first half is essentially taken from the shadowy corner of a popular lingerie/ sex accessory store. (You know with the fluff encrusted accessories, pocket sized battery operated toys and naughty books. Hey! Don’t you go pretending you don’t know said corner! I see you. Oh, those batteries are for your electric toothbrush. Right, okay … ) Here, I’m sorry to say there isn’t much of a story line and the sexy happenings that do occur could easily be condensed into a short story collection a la Ann Summers. The second half however deals more with the effect that the adulterous relationship has on the people surrounding the illicit couple.
Schafer puts a LOT of detail into every chapter. Every day, every encounter, every beer festival, every sex scene is described in such minute detail that I now know more about Kathy than is reasonably acceptable. This would be OK, except that every chapter is essentially the same and can be summarised thus:
- Kathy is bored with her boring boyfriend
- Kathy goes to beer festival with boring boyfriend
- Kathy and Michael make eyes at each other while boring boyfriend is distracted by beer
- Kathy and Michael run away and have sex while boring boyfriend is probably having an affair of his own
- Kathy and Michael slink back to their respective boring partners until next time
I couldn’t relate to the characters at all. It may be because I haven’t yet reached middle age, or that the thought of a beer festival (every weekend) doesn’t make me jump for joy, or that I have hobbies other than sex. I couldn’t really get on board with the motivations of the characters either. Kathy and Michael are having an affair but they don’t really have any good reason; Kathy is bored of her 7 year relationship with her boyfriend and Michael’s wife has sworn off sex apparently.
I’m all up for a passionate affair but there’s nothing significant affecting Kathy and Michael’s decisions. There is no life or death; no real emotional need for these two people to be together. Think the direct opposite of Romeo and Juliet. Its all a bit wishy washy. People, if you’re not happy in your relationship, BREAK UP! Simple. No affairs required.
There are also quite a few gender specific stereotypes that I didn’t enjoy. As their affair progresses, Kathy and Michael decide that they need to rent a house so they can pretend to be real people in a real relationship. So obviously, Michael (the man) finds the stronghold while Kathy (the woman) spends weeks with her frivolous soft furnishings, making the house beautiful for her man, not letting him step foot in the door until it is perfection. Having said that, there is an interesting feminist commentary in chapter 13 re the pros and cons of marriage in the 21st century. Had this chapter appeared 13 chapters sooner I would have been happier.
I did grow fond of the characters towards the end but it was a bit too late. The read would have been made easier had we had another voice to guide us through the story. As it was, I found Kathy’s singular voice a little monotonous.
Its not really my cup of tea, but if you like your fiction with a heavy helping of filth and a sprinkling of deviance then this book may be just the one for you.