Book Review: Perfect Combination by Jamillah and David Lamb

In their recent book Perfect Combination: Seven Key Ingredients to Happily Living & Loving Together, authors Jamillah and David Lamb describe “their recipe for romantic success” though anecdotes and insights they’ve gained from their decade-long marriage. Not only are the authors married to one another, they also work together as co-producers on their off-Broadway play Platanos Y Collard Greens.

Throughout the book, they use cooking as a metaphor for building a successful relationship (hence the Key Ingredients in the title and the Dutch oven on the cover). While I found some of the examples a bit cheesy (e.g. 1 Cup of Forgiveness and 1 Tablespoon of Humor), overall I think authors did a fine job of making simple that which is often complicated.

The book is written in a dialogue between Jamillah and David, giving a dual perspective on the same events throughout the history of their relationship. Their use of storytelling not only makes for a more engaging read, but also makes the reader feel like they know the couple and makes their messages more concrete. I remember when I was first learning about teaching, my mother telling me that “stories stick and facts fade,” and I think this book is a great example of that truism.

The authors also strike a good balance between oversharing and vulnerability. They describe things that are personal (and not necessarily flattering), but don’t disclose anything really intimate that could make the reader uncomfortable. They describe a number of situations that are easily relatable – like having arguments over domestic tasks – and how they’ve learned to manage them more successfully.

Their creative partnership informs the book as much as their romantic one. One of my favorite examples from the book is their comparison of marriage to theater. The Lambs describe theater as “infinitely perfectible,” unlike a movie, which is “shot and released.” In other words, with a movie, an actor can’t improve his performance years after production. They argue that viewing a relationship (and oneself) as “infinitely perfectible” like a play makes space for the continued improvement and attention that characterize successful, satisfying marriages. I wholeheartedly agree that regular relationship tune-ups (to use a different metaphor) are invaluable and are often missing in many people’s long-term relationships.

As someone who writes about and researches healthy relationships and has been happily married for five years, there wasn’t much matchless advice for me in this book, but I still think it’s an insightful, general guide to marriage and co-habitation. Depending on how much your relationship (or desired relationship) matches David and Jamillah’s, your mileage may vary in terms of what you get out their advice. What is unique about Perfect Combination is the narrative style and dual perspective presented throughout the book, and how the authors use symbolism and metaphor to explain important marital concepts. It was enjoyable, touching, and I’d particularly recommend it to soon-to-be-married or cohabitating couples as an accessible look at how to maintain a happy relationship.

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About Kate McCombs

Kate McCombs

Kate McCombs, MPH is a NYC-based sex educator + blogger. She's the founder of Sex Geekdom, a global community for sex educators, researchers, and other folks who love having geeky conversations about sex.