Two strangers, each harboring guilty sorrow over past losses, offer each other solace in this introspective novel from Reed (Things We Set on Fire, 2013).
Recently separated from her Irish husband, Niall, who has moved from their home in Ireland to Australia for reasons that may or may not have to do with her alcoholism, 35-year-old writer June returns to property on the Oregon coast where she was born and which she’s inherited from her grandparents, who raised her. Alone in the carriage house where she lived with her father until his suicide when she was 7, she struggles daily to work on her new book and avoid drink. Sight unseen she hires a contractor named Jameson, known to be “unorthodox,” to renovate the main house, which her grandparents built from a Sears kit in 1940. Jameson currently lives across the state with his wife, Sarah Anne, a potter, and their 2-year-old foster child, Ernest. The couple used to live in June’s coastal community, but they left three years earlier after their 7-year-old twins were fatally shot by a teenager in a convenience store. While caring for Ernest is renewing Sarah Anne’s energy, Jameson remains paralyzed. He takes June’s job out of financial desperation. Although their phone conversations are fraught with significant undercurrents from the beginning, Jameson does not actually see June for the first 150 of the novel’s pages. Instead Reed describes in every way possible June's and Jameson’s emotional wounds to prove they are soul mates in sensitivity. When the two finally spend time together, Jameson's desire to talk to June, to ask her questions—in stark contrast to his tiptoeing silence around Sarah Anne—matches June’s desire to share even those secrets she kept from patient, loving Niall. But can either find a way beyond loss?
An excruciatingly slow novel in which sentimental self-absorption rules despite nods to social issues like child abuse and gun violence.