Paul and Katherine, the loving couple, fly from Boston to Los Angeles. Paul is a thirty-year-old historian who finds a wonderful job at a big corporation in the West Coast. Paul is so excited since this is a career boosting opportunity. Katherine, on the other hand doesn’t want to leave Boston, where she has her relatives and friends etc. However Katherine is persuaded to abandon everything and to fly to LA with Paul. Needless to say, Paul thrives in LA while Katherine is plagued with health issues and existential crisis.
This is the plot of “The Nowhere City” by Alison Lurie. I am still at the very beginning, and I’m very interested in the relocation issue the book describes since it is very common among Asian immigrant couples. I’ve heard so many instances that I can’t decide which one I am going to depict here…
One couple is certainly doomed since both have PhD. The husband is a mathematician and he couldn’t land an academic job until his friend recommended him to a very small college located near the Canadian border in the Northeast. His wife is doing certain kind of niche field that she can only find a job in California. The two have almost no chance of getting together other than major holidays. I think retirement is their only chance of getting together permanently.
Another couple was very happy for quite a while. Then one day the husband had a business trip somewhere. Suddenly he was not satisfied with his life anymore–he was middle-aged and was getting old, and he felt that he was missing something in his life. We all hear stories like this. He wanted to move to a new place, take more responsibility in a new better-paid job. But this is very threatening to her. She doesn’t want to move and she doesn’t want to switch jobs. He is getting a better job prospect and is most likely to thrive in the new place, but for her, it’s a different story. What can she do? If she doesn’t follow him, their relationship will fall apart right now; if she does follow him, there’s no guarantee that she will find a good job in the new place–most likely she’s not going to find a job as good as the one she’s having now. And what if the relationship falls apart in the new place due to new stresses? She will lose both her good job and her relationship.
Life is so much more complicated nowadays. During my parents’ days, job was more secure and changing jobs was quite rare. And social customs and tradition made divorce almost impossible. In the rural university my mother worked in, there were only two couples who divorced, out of the entire university staff. And there’s only one person who’s diabetic–this is rather irrelevant to the topic but I can’t help it. Also there’s only one woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer–this is also an irrelevant fact.