A sympathetic debut charts the days following a matriarch’s death during which three generations of the same family see their settled lives begin to splinter.
Sex, marriage vows and teenage angst seam Wright’s first novel, set in the small community of Cooperstown, made famous in the 1960s when a notorious novel, The Sex Cure, exposed the thinly veiled affairs of its citizens. Bob Cole feared his own infidelities would come to light in its pages, although his wife, Joanie—the grandmother who dies in the prologue—never let on that she knew about them. But she did, and so did their clever daughter Anne, whose character was shaped by the undeclared marital tensions. Anne escaped to Harvard Law School, but later, married to Hugh, she returned. Joanie’s death means Bob must move in with Anne and Hugh, a fact which upsets established family patterns, leading to the exposure of Hugh’s own recent infidelity. And then there are Hugh and Anne’s two teenage children, each caught up in their own dilemmas of hormonal awakening, sport and the fearsome possibilities of the future. Narrated from multiple perspectives, some more compelling than others, and larded with themes, Wright’s novel is overfreighted yet capable and humane.
Inhabiting an appealing if familiar scenario, this is a novel long on empathy but missing the spark of animation.