Yes, everybody has secrets in Buckley’s third novel (Invisible, 2012, etc.), about an Ohio woman who will go to any lengths to protect her impaired son, but some secrets are uglier than others.
Fourteen-year-old Tyler suffers from xeroderma pigmentosum, a genetic condition that means he must avoid any exposure to the sun or any UV light. He stays in his room all day, but he likes to sneak out at night and photograph his neighbors through their windows, capturing their secrets. Tyler’s ferociously protective mother, Eve, has devoted her life to caring for Tyler, whose chances for surviving into adulthood are slim. Absorbed in her concern for Tyler, Eve pays little attention to Tyler’s 15-year-old sister, Melissa, who is going through an adolescent rough spot. Nor does Eve have any patience or empathy for her husband, David, who commutes from their Ohio neighborhood to his job in Washington, D.C., to support them all, given Tyler’s extra expenses. One rainy August evening, Eve rushes to the airport to pick up David (who is having his own professional and personal crises). Her attention wavers while texting, and she hits something: Amy, the 11-year-old daughter of Eve’s best friend, Charlotte. After a moment of horror when she realizes Amy is dead, Eve resolves not to own up and take responsibility. After all, who would care for Tyler if she went to prison? Once Amy is declared missing, then dead, suspicion falls everywhere but on Eve, who struggles intermittently with her guilt even while she offers emotional support to Charlotte. The dialogue between the two—and between Eve and David when they’re not at each other’s throats—is often blandly chirpy. As for Eve’s neighbors’ secrets, they are pretty low-grade as secrets go.
Despite its high concept, the plot never rises to a temperature above lukewarm.