"Karen Connelly’s The Change Room is a book couples should take to bed and read out loud to each other. Never embarrassing or lurid, but always deeply arousing, the sex in this book is exquisitely written. But The Change Room offers the reader so much more. Connelly gives us a challenging view of marriage, a frank appraisal of the physical and mental exhaustion so many of us feel carrying the weight of domestic life, and a long overdue acknowledgement of our shared desire for respite. More than that, The Change Room directs our gaze to an ancient and fundamental truth: sex is sacred."
A few words about The Change Room :
My last four books are heartbreakers. They explore how adults and children survive (and do not survive) violent rupture: war, dictatorial repression, imprisonment, physical and mental abuse by governments and by families. I’ve been educated in the arts of political resistance (and the work of love+hope) in Myanmar, along the Thai-Myanmar border, in Iraqi Kurdistan, in Palestine, in Morocco, in Canada by extraordinary people who’ve shared their personal and communalstories with me. Their generosity as teachers and friends have made me into the writer and the person I am today.
As an artist, though, I began to find myself running on empty. I needed to lift my eyes away from valiant struggle--at least for a little while. As a writer and a woman, I needed to enjoy and delight in my work again. Why does this feels like a shocking thing to admit? Because it is shocking. Most of us do not openly celebrate pleasure and delight; as adults, we forget how to play. In The Change Room, I relearn how to play—and guess what? IT’S SO MUCH FUN!
Enter Eliza Keenan, her demanding job, her sparking sense of humour, and her lustful misbehavior. Enter Shar Radfour and her chosen métiers (sex work, slow sex, and psychology). Enter Andrew Taylor, Eliza’s handsome, loving husband with his bemused mathematician’s view of the universe (and of his wife). And enter their two rambunctious children, bringers of delicious, love-filled messes, anxieties, and responsibilities.
In the midst of all this, centre stage, in all its disturbing, forceful glory, enter Sex as one of the main characters in the book, and in life. Sex is the beginning of life, after all: no wonder it preoccupies us. The sex in The Change Room is the kind that most of us do not get enough of. Because we are so busy. Because we’ve been married since 1789. Because the children wake up. Because we don’t want it anyway. Because we feel sick of each other or the world or our jobs or . . .
But who wouldn’t want it, really, if it were elegantly, generously offered? Sublime, mind-blowing, heart-expanding, life-affirming sex? This is what Eliza gets a taste of, with free and beautiful (and younger) Shar. Like countless adulterers and adulteresses before her, Eliza enters into that ancient labyrinth of half-truths and outright lies that lead to . . .
. . . Come on in and see what they lead to. Spoiler alert: the ending is not the traditional one, of perdition and punishment. The woman is not beaten. Her children do not die. All over the world, our cultures and our religions, our ‘values’, and plenty of our novels, still embrace the punishment of sexuality in general and transgressive sex by women in particular.
We’ve had enough of that. At least in my book.
“EROTIC. TRUTHFUL. CUNNING.”
-- Ami McKay, author of The Birth House and The Witches of New York.