In Diamond’s debut, a random series of events leads to five adrift people tangled up in each other’s lives, with sometimes-disastrous consequences.
Susan Moore, Will Moore, Mark Ready, and Ella Weyland are all lost. Susan suspects that her husband is cheating on her. Will’s a philanderer all right and engaged in some very dirty business dealings besides. Mark is 28 and rudderless, seeing only his way to the next drink or fix. Ella can’t hold down a job so instead turns to men. Their lives collide when Susan decides to hire Warren Lane, a sleazy private detective who divides his time equally between blackmailing and investigating. When a mix-up leads Susan to accidentally hire Mark to investigate her husband instead of Warren, events begin a downward spiral. Suddenly Mark is sleeping with both Will’s mistress and his wife. Instead of going back home to try to restart her modeling career, Ella is staying put, trying yet again to find herself in a relationship. Will has no idea how to extricate himself from shady deals that have gotten to be far more complicated than he can handle. And everyone thinks it’s Warren’s fault. These encounters with pain, hope, and loss make the book engaging. Almost every reader will relate in some way to the protagonists’ sense of being adrift and unsure of where to go. Ella sums up this universal feeling when she tells Mark that he is, “A kind person, with a good heart. Who’s a little lost. Like me.” When books tap into themes like this, however, there is an expectation that they will offer up insight about how we detangle ourselves from such situations, or even how we don’t. It’s a bit of a letdown, then, when the characters don’t actually deal with their problems, which are, for the most part, magically solved. Not quite deus ex machina but close. It makes for a story that is sweet but not necessarily satisfying.
Pathos plus characters who are puppets of fate equals a pleasant melodrama.