Love, marriage, the whole damn thing—all spanned in a witty, tender first novel.
After three years of marriage, Clark and Charlotte Adair have moved into their first home, “a normal house in a normal place,” paid for by Clark’s mother’s bequest after she committed suicide. Although still in the delighted phase of their relationship, the two have learned enough about each other to sense limits and disappointments. Charlotte, an orphan, fears abandonment above all and wants no children. Clark, “prone to nostalgia,” has been imbued with some of his paranoid mother’s colorful fantasies in lieu of a truer sense of adulthood. The purchase of the yellow house in Clementine is an opportunity for the two to settle down, but what about the rumors that previous owners fled the place? And how to explain the glimpsed figures and overheard voices first noted by Clark, then Charlotte? Gaige’s beguilingly offbeat voice and appealing mix of humor and insight offer continual pleasures, and her story, woven together with that of the house, reaches high. Each chapter follows the discrete shape of a short story while also building on the troubling notion that there are indeed ghosts abroad—not only the seemingly ineradicable spirits at Quail Hollow Road but also the “persona” phantoms that dwell inside Clark and Charlotte. Conventional action is relatively minor: the dog escapes; Clark rescues a boy at the swimming pool and experiences a death rush of exhilaration. But the shifts in mood and the variations in the couple’s power balance are just as telling. After a snowstorm, they have their biggest row, and Clark drives away. In the final pages, Gaige’s usually unerring if unpredictable sense of narrative true north wavers, and chapters become ragged. Despite a final soft-centered swerve, however, the impression overall is of a limpid style and the peeling away of the comedy of intimacy to expose isolated souls.
With a flavor of Lorrie Moore, graceful, bright, modern writing.