Ever since this book was published, which was about two years ago, I've known that something REALLY BAD happens about halfway through. All the reviews are clear on that point. But no one talks about what that bad thing is. It is the most perfectly-guarded secret I've ever seen in the literary world (if you don't dig too deep on Amazon).
This is as it should be. The only way to read this book is to go into it uninformed and unaware, and allow yourself to become consumed by the story. Allow yourself to be haunted by the story.
Synopsis: Mary Beth Latham is the kind of mother that relishes in the chaos of having a 17 year-old daughter and twin 14 year-old boys. She loves the constant noise, the bickering, the steady stream of friends in the house, and her role as the nurturer and guardian. She believes, like most parents, that if she is involved in her children's life, that if she provides safety and security of a stable family environment, that it will be enough.
It is not that there have not been trials. Mary Beth's relatively happy marriage has had its bumps, her daughter Ruby had that eating disorder for awhile, and now one of the twins Max seems to be depressed. But this is the nature of raising teenagers, and Mary Beth will move heaven and earth to make things right.
But sometimes, no matter what you do to protect your family, it is not enough. Small actions have devastating consequences, and random factors outside your realm of control impact you in ways you would never imagine. This is the story of how one woman comes out the other side, and deals with the unimaginable.
My thoughts: My first thought, after I'd finished this book and settled down to analyze my thoughts and emotions, was "Nice. Another thing for me to worry about." I am a quiet worrier and an over-thinker by nature, so when I witness (even fictionally) the implosion of a normal family through an unthinkable act of violence, the ground beneath me shifts.
I originally had avoided this book because I am never really in the mood for depression. But I was wrong. This goes beyond just your run-of-the-mill downer. It is thoughtful. It is shocking. It is gorgeously written. It is compelling. It is tragic. It rocked my world.
I think the reason why it resonated with me so is that I could fully relate to Mary Beth's life. I could be her. I liked her, and respected her as a wife and a mother. She made some errant turns in her life, but her voice was so real and earnest to me, I couldn't fault her. I also liked the myriad of discussable topics that arise. I'm not even sure I'd be able to list them all, but this would be a peach of a read for a book club.
A few words about the audio production: Hope Davis was the narrator for this book, and it could not have been placed in more capable hands. Hope also narrated "State of Wonder", so I knew I was in for a treat. But she is so much better than a treat. She is the perfect example of a narrator taking a really good book and making it exceptional. I truly believe that this novel, in addition "State of Wonder", was propelled to a five star read because of her incredible talent.
5 out of 5 stars