Love Don't Live Here Anymore
Denene Miller and her husband Nick Chiles are known for their What Brothers Think, What Sistahs Know series of non-fiction relationship books. They make their fiction debut with Love Don’t Live Here Anymore, which tells the story of Randy Murphy and Mikki Chance-Murphy in chapters with alternate points of view between husband and wife.
Married three years, Randy and Mikki are the perfect example of the “black” upwardly mobile couple. College educated (he from Yale, she from Spellman), they have rewarding and creative careers – he in advertising and she as a designer of wedding dresses who owns a store that sells her creations. All seems to be going well… except it isn’t.
In the beginning the marriage was perfect. They were in love, having great sex, and becoming successful professionally. Everything changes after Randy is offered a promotion that requires him to spend three months working in Paris. Mikki does not want him to go and feels abandoned when he leaves.
The reader is first introduced to Randy as he reads a bitter email from his wife, who tries to convey her feelings of disappointment and abandonment as well as her reasons for not wanting to have a baby. Mikki herself is introduced in the next chapter, treating a customer shabbily all the while thinking about the affair she’s begun with her husband’s best friend Marcus. As the book continues, Randy begins an affair himself with a co-worker in Paris. Once Randy returns to Brooklyn, everything blows up.
Reading about selfish people can be incredibly tedious. I knew from the back cover that the marriage would be tested, but had no idea how far the extramarital relations would extend. The couple seemed to couple with those outside the marriage more often than they did with each other, which did not endear them to me. Mikki was not developed well enough; a three-month separation can be difficult, but I couldn’t understand why she was so very angry. And when she cheated on her husband with his best friend, I might have wanted to jump into the book and slap her, except that, frankly, I didn’t care enough about Randy to do so.
None of the characters’ motivations were sufficiently explored. Why did Marcus have an affair with the wife of his best friend? Why was Mikki so self-absorbed? Did these people care about anything other than their expensive belongings?
With so many questions raised, a few answers would have been nice. Unfortunately, the book concludes with many doors left open. Events kept spiraling until the very end, at which point Mikki obsesses about her outfit rather than her reconciliation with Randy.
For authors who have written so well about African American relationships, who seemed to have the pulse of the African American community, they squandered their chance to tell a story of a young married couple. All the insight that went into their non-fiction books disappeared in this work of fiction. None of the characters did any reflecting or self-evaluation, and as a reader I felt only bitter disappointment at having wasted my time reading about them.
Love Don’t Live Here Anymore did not live up to my expectations. At times the messier aspects of marriage were depicted with humorous realism – what happens when the initial lust dies down? – but for the most part, the insight about couples Millner and Chiles are known for wasn’t visible.