An accidental death leads to secrets revealed and second thoughts expressed in McKenzie’s latest (Forgotten, 2012, etc.).
Jeff Manning is fatally struck by a car when he decides to walk home after firing yet another hapless co-worker at the odious management consultant–dominated company in which he is a reluctantly rising executive. His wife, Claire, is devastated even though it’s clear from her very first monologue—as she anxiously wonders why Jeff is late—that there are simmering tensions in the marriage. They might have something to do with Tish, who works in HR for the same company; though she and Jeff are at branches in different towns, they’ve developed a warm email relationship since meeting at a corporate retreat. But it could also be the fact that Claire was once the girlfriend of Jeff’s older brother, Tim, or that she’s been emotionally distant ever since she lost a baby four years ago, when their son Seth was 8. Readers learn all this, as well as about Tish’s saintly doctor-husband, Brian, and their supersmart 11-year-old daughter, Zoey, via first-person narratives by Claire, Tish—and Jeff, which is odd, since he gets killed on Page 8. In straightforward, realistic fiction like this, a dead narrator should really be explained, but McKenzie simply plows ahead, developing her story via three points of view that follow each other in the same order for the entire novel, adding to the already heavy sense of predictability. The aggravations of corporate life, the compromises and disappointments inherent in long marriages, the processes of grieving are all depicted with reasonable insight, but there’s little new here, and what plot development there is may give readers a sense of being jerked around: Zoey faints, twice, but it’s just stress; Claire and Tim kiss and Jeff sees them, but when Claire tells him nothing else happened, he believes her. The “truth” about Jeff and Tish’s relationship comes much too late and isn’t much of a revelation.
Readable and forgettable.