The Mermaid Chair, by Sue Monk Kidd. Jessie, the protagonist, leaves her husband Hugh behind in Atlanta and grudgingly returns to the South Carolina barrier island on which she was raised to deal with her mother's mysterious act of self-mutilation. While she's there she falls in love with a monk at the Benedictine monastery and gets to the bottom of deep, dark family secrets.
This book is The Bridges of Madison County in a salt marsh, marinated in a little Low Country Roman Catholicism. The religious angle takes the star-crossed lovers trope to a whole new level. What I mean is that the book seems to argue that adultery really ought to be a sacrament. See, rolling around in the mud with a holy man is such a beautiful act of self-expression--it's art, really--and this manifestation of creativity is just the ticket to the self-differentiation that both marriage partners need. And Oh--the noble tragedy of knowing, really knowing how much harm your act of self-indulgence is going to inflict on the innocent. Why, it's practically a cross to bear!
And another thing: assisted suicide ought to be a sacrament too. If you're going to off yourself, there's no better place than a church!
There's nothing subtle about either the self-absorption on display in this book or the shopworn contrast between religion and spirituality, art and dogma. It took every bit of self-control I could muster to keep from throwing this book at the nearest wall, but hey, if it provokes feelings that strong, there must be something to it, right?
Or maybe not. At the end of the novel, Jessie recalls a day she spent hiking with Hugh early in her marriage. The day ended with them frolicking naked in a creek and making love. I thought to myself, "This woman's problem isn't that she lost herself in her marriage. Her problem is that she hasn't been getting it enough in the great outdoors."
If only ol' Hugh had known. If only he'd have driven her up to Kennesaw Mountain every month or so for a romp in the bushes. All this could have been avoided.