Through the lens of a failed
marriage and a lost love, a flawed but appealing woman recovers her health
while dissecting her complicated relationships.
In her second novel, Gillies explores the same subject she did in Keeper (2010), her raw nonfiction account of caring for a close family member with Alzheimer’s: the fallibility of memory and the often heartbreaking half-truths we tell ourselves by way of compensation. Forty-something editor Nina Findlay grew up next door to two brothers, the one she married and the one she loved. Having finally left her husband, Paolo, Nina returns to the Greek island where they honeymooned and promptly gets hit by a bus. We spend the rest of the book recouping with her in the hospital, where she meets a charming doctor whose intentions are murky at best—but so, as it turns out, might be Nina’s. Wandering between her childhood, her coming of age, and her uncertain present, she tries to tell the story of her marriage without really understanding how it started; or, more critically, how it’s likely to end. Nina’s dead mother, Anna, the eccentric alpha female to her daughter’s apprehensive beta, haunts the narrative like a specter who doesn’t realize she’s overstayed her welcome. Both women are attractive but sometimes-frustrating, and there are moments when what Nina seems to need most is a good shake. Fortunately, she manages to give herself one in time to weave together enough of her history’s free-floating threads to leave us covered.
In this middle-aged love triangle, the points take a while to connect.