Over the course of a single summer, a middle-aged Manhattan couple grapples with the state of their marriage and their lives.
When Alice and Peter met, he was a young psychoanalyst and she was an even younger biophysicist. Soon, they had twin daughters. Now, he is an older psychoanalyst, she is still studying the complexities of starling flock dynamics, the twins are away at Berkeley, and the marriage is on the rocks. They have retreated into separate worlds, bored by themselves and each other. Peter has his work. For Alice, the only source of refuge is her beloved Dachshund-Chihuahua mutt named Maebelle, and when the novel opens on Memorial Day weekend, Maebelle has gone missing. Alice is devastated; Peter is annoyed. Alice has a tryst with a man she meets through a “Manhattan Lost Dog” Facebook group. Peter has escalating fantasies about a beautiful young patient. Both of them agonize, separately, over their mutual indiscretions. Sometimes, they go out to dinner. Every unhappy family may be unhappy in its own way, but it feels as though we’ve heard this story before. It is an intimate domestic drama presented without subtlety; every action has a clear and obvious motivation, and every motivation is explained at length. Alice’s infidelity, we’re told, is not just about sex, but rather because “she’d locate a shred of her former self.” Peter can’t stop fantasizing about the patient, he explains, because she reminds him “of so much I lack.” LeFavour (Lights On, Rats Out, 2017) offers an empathetic and detailed portrait of a marriage, but not—with the exception of one explosive scene toward the novel’s end—an especially insightful one.
A familiar tale of upper-middle-class ennui.