SWEET RUIN by Cathi Hanauer


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The inner (and outer) life of a grieving suburban mom is thrown into turmoil when she becomes attracted to a delicious young neighbor.

Two years after the tragic loss of her baby son, 35-year-old Elayna Leopold has gotten used to numbly going through the motions of life. A part-time poetry editor married to a mostly absent workaholic lawyer, she has been focusing all her energy on raising her young daughter Hazel. This all changes one early spring day after a chance meeting in her leafy New Jersey neighborhood with neighbor Kevin, an artist in his early 20s. She is instantly as captivated by him as he is by her; the two indulge in a heart-fluttering will-they-or-won’t-they flirtation that reignites her dormant sensuality. While never denying that she still loves her husband Paul, Elayna grows more and more smitten with Kevin, raising questions concerning the nature of marriage, the road not taken and whether the younger man is something of a substitute for the boy she lost. During this steamy season, Elayna’s fashion photographer father Devon takes a renewed interest in his granddaughter, putting Hazel in a fashion show and introducing her to his sophisticated Manhattan world. The two bond quickly, causing Elayna to wonder whether her dad’s worldly ways will negatively impact her sensitive seven-year-old. Her doubts pass quickly, and, in her self-absorbed state, Elayna starts to take more risks, culminating in a selfish decision that has far-reaching consequences for her family. Bravely tackling the complexity of sexual life, Hanauer (The Bitch in the House, 2003, etc.) allows Elayna’s ripe first-person musings to occasionally veer close to parody. But ultimately the reader is left feeling connected to a complicated woman who, after going hungry for too long, decides to taste too much.

Skillfully imagined, bittersweet portrait of marriage and sacrifice.

Pub Date: June 6th, 2006
ISBN: 0-7432-7734-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Atria
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2006


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