Another novel of troubled mothers and daughters from Moriarty (The Center of Everything, 2003), whose straightforward, unadorned prose speaks on some level to every woman.
Leigh and her older sister Pam came up the hard way, always the new kids at school in one nameless town after another because their divorced mother kept changing jobs. Left to fend for herself when Mom moved alone to California, Leigh struggled to make it through college. In addition to a degree in education, she also picked up Shakespearean grad student Gary. As the book opens, the couple lives in a small Kansas town; Gary teaches at the local university, Leigh at the middle school. Their daughter Kara, just about to graduate from high school and leave for college, is a golden girl who doesn’t find it easy to relate to her mother. Younger child Justin, engaging but friendless, longs for acceptance from his peers. The middle-class family’s seemingly golden life hits a bump in the road when Kara, driving home from school, accidentally strikes a fellow student in a pedestrian crossing and kills her. The small town that had seemed like a protective blanket suddenly becomes a city of eyes, watching and prying—or at least that’s how the family perceives it. As Kara struggles with her conscience, Leigh finds herself unable to connect with her own daughter. She remembers her hardscrabble childhood and the mother she swore never to emulate. In this compelling story of female relationships—mothers, sisters, daughters and best friends—Moriarty’s characters grab readers the minute they enter the story, and recollections of their vivid personalities will linger long after the last page.
Well-written, convincing and impossible to put down.