A creative-writing instructor returns to the Berkshires where the child he gave up for adoption lives with her wealthy and loving but very troubled parents.
Iowa Writers’ Workshop grad Brundage (The Doctor’s Wife, 2004) slathers on the words in this thriller set in the Massachusetts exurbs, where former druggie Nate Gallagher, the son of academic parents, has been hired by Jack Heath, the headmaster husband of Nate’s college classmate, Maggie. Jack is a piece of work. Having fled his last post under a cloud, he has rebuilt the reputation of The Pioneer School on the strength of his charm and the financial support of wealthy parents who are unaware that he is a wife-beater and whoremonger. Nate has taken the job hoping to finish his novel and to get a look at Willa, the daughter he and his AIDS-riddled, dying girlfriend Catherine drove from California and handed over to Candace and Joe Golding on a stormy night. What neither he nor anyone else in the town knows is that Pioneer board president and major donor Joe Golding makes his bucks producing porn films or that the elegant and rather shy Candace has a porn past. The Goldings have done a great job with Willa. She’s a nice kid entering the moody phase of adolescence, beginning a little sexual activity with undiagnosed dyslexic Teddy Squire. The apparent serenity of the campus begins to shatter when the headmaster’s abuse and some anonymous notes push his wife over the limit; Teddy Squire is given a DVD containing scenes from Candace’s darkest days; and a Polish prostitute whose customers include Teddy and Jack threatens to tell all.
Uneasy mix of romance, Grand Guignol theatrics and literary gushing.