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SEPARATE BEDS by Elizabeth Buchan


by Elizabeth Buchan

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-670-02236-6
Publisher: Viking

The already iffy equilibrium of a couple in mid-marriage distress comes under new pressures when the British economy crashes in Buchan’s good-natured domestic dramedy (Wives Behaving Badly, 2006, etc.).

Although 40-something Londoners Annie and Tom have slept in separate bedrooms ever since their daughter Mia stormed out five years ago never to return, they maintain the façade of a comfortable marriage. Then comes the recession. Tom, who has always put career before family involvement, loses his prestigious job at the BBC World Service. Nurturing Annie, a moderately paid hospital administrator, must carry an increasingly heavy financial burden. Next Mia’s twin brother Jake, whose high-end furniture-making business has tanked, moves back home with his baby daughter Maisie when his coldly ambitious wife Jocasta leaves him for another man and a lucrative job in NYC (one that seems unlikely given the banking crash). To make matters worse, Tom’s difficult mother Hermione can no longer afford assisted living and moves into the bedroom Tom’s been using so he must move back into the master bedroom with Annie. Dormant sexual tensions waken between saintly Annie and sympathetic Tom despite long-simmering resentments, mostly surrounding Mia’s estrangement from the family (another plot point lacking credibility: The original argument seems rather mild and one wonders why no one has checked for Mia on Facebook or Google, given the prominence of the Internet in the plot—Tom gambles disastrously with day trading). Soon the family is pulling together. Younger daughter Em, who previously lived at home supported by Tom while trying to write fiction, is surprised how much she enjoys the job she finds in PR. And when Jocasta announces that she wants to take Maisie to America, devoted father Jake mounts a solid campaign to retain custody. Tom becomes more self-aware about the mistakes he’s made as he and Annie slowly reconnect. As for the long-lost Mia…

The comforting message here seems to be that the family that loses its money together stays together.