YA veteran and National Book Award finalist Caletti (The Story of Us, 2012, etc.) makes a striking adult debut with this tale of a husband’s mysterious disappearance.
When Dani Keller wakes up with a pounding headache after too much wine and a couple of Vicodin at a tense party at husband Ian’s software company, she isn’t terribly surprised not to find him next to her. She vaguely remembers an argument the night before, and Ian is the punishing sort who seethes in silence or absents himself when she’s displeased him. The couple met when married to others—angry, abusive Mark and party-throwing, hard-drinking, free-spending Mary—and the resultant divorces scandalized their affluent Seattle suburb. Now they’re married and living on a houseboat on Lake Union; her daughter, Abby, likes Ian well enough, but Kristen and particularly Bethy have never forgiven Ian for leaving their mother and bitterly blame Dani. Indeed, Bethy accuses her hated stepmother of doing away with Daddy, and the worst of it is, Dani can’t deny it with total conviction. As Ian’s absence lengthens into weeks, her memories slowly paint a devastating portrait of two damaged people who clutch at each other for rescue but soon discover that their problems are deeper than unsatisfying marriages. Ian will never be successful enough for his hypercritical father, and Dani spends her life trying to make people who mistreat her feel better. She’s never had the courage to be alone, until Ian’s disappearance leaves her sick with fear and remorse. Could she have been angry and wasted enough to do him harm? Though the opening pages seem to promise a suspense novel—and the close delivers a well-executed plot twist—this is in essence the story of a woman’s growing self-knowledge, perfectly executed at an appropriately measured pace. Caletti softens the stark message that love doesn’t necessarily change anything with her compassion and understanding for Ian as well as Dani.
Well-written, strongly characterized and emotionally complex fiction.