A woman deals with her husband’s difficult career and her own dissatisfaction in this novel from LaBan (The Tragedy Paper, 2013, etc.).
Lila used to be a high-profile crisis manager who thrived on solving problems and fixing disasters at hotels. Now that she’s a stay-at-home mother, her own unhappiness is one crisis she can’t seem to fix. Her restaurant-critic husband, Sam, demands she stay home and out of the spotlight to better protect his identity in their new city. This means that not only can Lila not work, but she also can’t make friends with her neighbors. After going stir-crazy, Lila begins taking small steps out of her housebound prison, including making friends with a waiter, getting to know a restaurant owner’s wife, and secretly working for her old boss. However, when Lila’s actions become more public and Sam finds out she’s jeopardizing his privacy, he’s furious. Many mothers will identify with Lila—her frustrations with (and love of) her family are realistically complex. Sam, however, is a much less likable character. His demands on Lila are so intense that he comes across as controlling and manipulative. Readers may find themselves telling Lila to run away from him instead of wanting their relationship to work out. Still, LaBan’s writing is engaging, and the sheer insanity of Sam’s dedication to his job provides plenty of enjoyable details.
LaBan’s novel is best when it focuses on the frustrations and complications of motherhood and family.