In Bennett’s debut novel, a young attorney in a prestigious Boston law firm discovers that she has more in common with a murder defendant that she imagined.
Elizabeth Curran has been working in civil litigation at Dwight and Summer for two years. Now she’s being given her first criminal case: the defense of Ruby Anderson, a 25-year-old mother of three who confessed to murdering her husband, Joey. It should be an open-and-shut case: Ruby was waiting for the police after the shooting and calmly told them that she shot Joey when he came home from work. Elizabeth drives to the Framingham women’s prison, expecting to find “an angry and defiant, overgrown and unruly fiend.” Instead, she discovers a “soft-spoken, gentle, temperate woman” who may actually be innocent. She begins to understand her boss’s order to accept no deals and find a way to obtain a verdict of “not guilty”; the defense strategy revolves around “battered woman’s syndrome.” Alternating with the story of the trial is the tale of Elizabeth’s relationship with her live-in boyfriend, Bruce. Bennett makes him a most unpleasant character from the minute he’s introduced: when Elizabeth returns home from work and announces, “I got assigned a tough pro bono case today,” Bruce responds, “You’re late and I’m starving.” His verbal and emotional abuse turns out to be frighteningly similar to the late Joey’s. The title of Bennett’s novel is taken from Abigail Adams’ entreaty to her husband, Founding Father John Adams, in 1776: “I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors.” Overall, Bennett is often an articulate advocate for abused women in this novel. However, her fondness for the rhythm of lengthy sentences needs taming: “The downpour continued to drench them as Erik frantically searched for the car keys in his pockets, in the empty cup holders, in the jam-packed glove box that held everything useful in the event of an automotive emergency except, of course, gloves and the keys to the car.” There are times when readers may reach the end of a long run-on sentence only to find that they’ve forgotten where it began. Also, many of the court battles seem simplistic, lacking the credibility of other tough legal dramas.
A promising but flawed drama about a timely subject.