Love & War

As a couple, they have always inspired curiosity.

When Mary Matalin and James Carville wed in New Orleans on Thanksgiving Day 1993, some surmised it was “some kind of stunt marriage,” Carville says in the couple’s new book, Love & War. “They wouldn’t come out and tell it to your face. But we knew.” She was a senior Republican consultant and conservative pundit on TV; he’d managed the political campaigns of President Bill Clinton and other Democrats. They were ideological opponents, outspoken critics of each other’s party. How could they coexist under one roof?

The 1994 publication of their first joint memoir, All’s Fair, may have dispelled disbelief that the romance was real. But impertinent questions about their private lives kept coming: for example, “Is your husband weird like that at home?” “What do you fight about the most?” “Is this all about good make-up sex?”

The couple addresses some such queries in Love & War. This ambitious sequel is a frank and eloquent memoir of a political duo whose 20-year marriage has weathered challenges mundane and extraordinary. She loves animals; he doesn’t. She likes to shop; he queries every purchase. He was diagnosed with ADHD; it saved their marriage. She not only supported the Iraq War—a war he denounced—she worked in the White House for Vice President Dick Cheney.

Paradoxically, while Matalin and Carville take turns narrating, this book conveys an appealing unity of experience. Two viewpoints shape each chapter, on topics as diverse as parenting and the BP oil spill. The authors give each other space to be themselves: That’s the tacit message of this structure.

Love & War begins with and circles back to their family’s audacious move from D.C. to New Orleans in 2008. For months they wondered: “Right decision? Wrong decision?” Yet for many reasons, it was a homecoming, and more. Matalin says, “My new home has made a convert of me on every level.” Let her and her beloved tell you how.