The minutiae of everyday life turn sinister for two women in this taut, fraught tale.
In her sophomore novel, Lane (Alys, Always, 2012) alternates between the perspectives of Nina and Emma, two 40-something women who’ve taken different routes through motherhood. Both Nina and her second husband have teenage daughters from their first marriages, but except for a bit of adolescent surliness, the throes of child-rearing are well behind them. Nina can afford to dress with chic simplicity, to keep an elegant home and to avoid her father’s invitations to summer in the south of France. Ever since his wandering eye (and probable philandering) broke up his marriage to Nina’s mother, Nina has resented Paul. His attentions never settle on her, so why bother with the charade of a happy luncheon, much less a family vacation? Emma, on the other hand, is saddled with a demanding toddler and expecting another baby. She knows she ought to be a doting mother, but desperate words underscore her thoughts: “All this buttoning and unbuttoning.” She longs for respite from the endless laundry and meal production but knows they’ll have to rely on Ben’s paycheck until the kids are in school. After Nina finds and returns Emma’s wallet, which she oddly lost at the greengrocer’s shop, the women strike up an uneasy friendship. Emma sees in Nina the woman she wishes she could be: cultured and smartly dressed. What draws Nina to Emma is murkier. Nina, in fact, recognizes Emma, although Emma seems to have no memory of a past friendship. With chilling precision, Lane narrates the re-entwining of these two women’s lives through domestic details. Afternoon teas, disastrous shopping trips, cluttered homes and even well-populated playgrounds begin to seep with danger. And the net inexorably tightens.
A domestic thriller of the first order.