The day after Nina Browning's son, Finch, is accepted to Princeton, he makes a terrible decision, and Nina's perfect life comes crashing down.
Raised in the small town of Bristol, on the border of Tennessee and Virginia, Nina married well. Her husband, Kirk, and she have raised Finch among Nashville’s privileged, well-manicured mansions, sending him to the prestigious Windsor Academy. Yet an alcohol-soaked party ends with Finch snapping compromising pictures of an unconscious young woman, Lyla Volpe, a sophomore on scholarship to Windsor. The photos spread like wildfire through the town, leaving Lyla devastated. Her father, Tom, a carpenter struggling to raise Lyla alone after her mother deserted them, is determined to exact justice from the school’s Honor Council. Nina is dismayed to find Finch and Kirk blithely unconcerned about Lyla's feelings or Finch’s crime. They are far more interested in using the Browning family wealth to convince the school and Tom to turn a blind eye—not to mention using Finch’s sexual magnetism to manipulate Lyla’s emotions. Distraught, Nina forges friendships with Tom and Lyla, which will expose the fault lines in her own family. Giffin (First Comes Love, 2016, etc.) shifts perspectives from chapter to chapter, giving voice to Lyla’s teenage fears of social repercussions and Tom’s efforts to balance his fierce protective streak with his desire to give his daughter her freedom. Yet it is Nina’s chapters that ring most powerfully, as Giffin captures the complexity of Nina’s emotions: Her maternal instincts to protect her son war against her feminist alliance with the wronged Lyla; her wistful memories of her beloved little boy wrestle with her outrage at his racist, sexist, and increasingly devious young adult behavior; and her carefully constructed sense of family fractures against her realization that Kirk may not be the husband, father, or man she thought he was.
A compelling portrait of a woman facing the difficult limits of love.