Modern Marriage by Filip Vukašin

 ‘Is Dante Garcia your husband?’

Klara Garcia is a cosmetic surgeon in Melbourne, working in partnership with her friend Tomas. Klara is married to Dante; they are in their late thirties, and they are talking about having a child. Dante has been increasing his fitness regime, and Klara thinks she might need to do some work as well.

And then Klara’s world shifts on its axis. Klara receives a ‘phone call. Dante is unconscious in intensive care. What has happened?

Klara discovers that Dante collapsed in a gay sauna, which immediately raises questions. And the fact that he doesn’t regain consciousness means that Klara cannot ask those questions of Dante. Klara is overwhelmed. She is worried about the possibility of STD, and feels that somehow, she should have known. Klara is anxious about what Dante’s family might think, and she tries to keep this information from them.

A complicated, emotional story unfolds. Tomas, who is gay and who is hoping to marry his partner Sam soon, is concerned about Klara. She’s not taking as much care of her personal presentation as she needs to in the ‘looks are everything’ cosmetic industry, and he knows something about Dante that he really should tell her.

Klara’s sister-in-law, Rachel, thinks that she has all the answers. She’s convinced that Klara knows more about what happened to Dante and starts wondering about motivation. Rachel can visualise the true story, dramatically unfolding in a podcast. And Klara starts injuring herself as she tries to make sense of the past and to face the future.

This novel addresses several complex issues including sexuality, identity, and self-image. I felt sorry for Klara, enjoyed Tomas’s perspective, and loathed Rachel.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith