Crown Publishing Group: American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee

The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity

Infidelity: the very word elicits a strong reaction from most people. Almost universally taboo, cheating can destroy a couple's relationship faster than almost anything else. However, according to renowned couples therapist Esther Perel, it's possible that affairs hold some important lessons for all parties involved. In her second nonfiction book, The State of Affairs, Perel argues for a new conversation around infidelity: its variations, root causes and ripple effects, and the chance that it may be an engine for growth.

Perel (Mating in Captivity) examines the enduring features of infidelity (secrecy, excitement, lies, jealousy, desire) and also delves into its particular expressions and complications in the 21st century (chat rooms, Internet porn, gender politics, open marriages). Each chapter includes stories of Perel's clients who have been affected by infidelity, and a nuanced look at their experiences. (While Perel includes plenty of statistics, she highlights the narratives because "it is the stories that lead us into the deeper human concerns of longing and disenchantment, commitment and erotic freedom.") She emphasizes the need for nonjudgmental conversation, the ways relationships shape a couple's sense of identity, and the surprising ways affairs can breathe new life into long-term relationships instead of shattering them.

"Love is messy; infidelity more so," Perel says. "But it is also a window, like none other, into the crevices of the human heart." The State of Affairs is a thoughtful view of the complicated landscape through that window: a sensitive take on a really sensitive topic. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams