In Crickmore’s debut novel, a woman experiences traumas from childhood into adulthood.
By 1980, Maria Anderson was a famous lawyer who defended children in family disputes. She chose these types of cases due to the problems she encountered during her own childhood. When she was a young girl, her father died, and her mother Brenda befriended a neighbor named Maureen whose own husband had left her. It was a fateful friendship that connected Maria with Maureen’s daughter, Emilia, who used to help to lure young girls to her older, abusive cousin Tyler Staples. Maria grew to believe that she loved Tyler, but she managed to escape the toxic relationship. Now, as a successful lawyer, Maria is married to a wonderful man named Ronald Makintosh and has children of her own. But on their wedding anniversary, Maria receives word that Tyler has died, which brings back a flood of memories, confusing emotions, and paranoia. Meanwhile, a beautiful nurse has moved into the neighborhood, and Maria notices a sharp change in her husband’s behavior. This leads her to hire a private investigator, which embroils her in an entirely new family trauma. The true test for Maria and her marriage, however, comes after a later, troubling diagnosis. Crickmore has crafted an ambitious family saga that touches on a range of difficult issues. But although it has many potentially intriguing elements, it has pacing problems that keep it from coming together as a cohesive whole. The third-person narration veers from describing every event as it happens to summarizing major plot turns in a few sentences. For example, Emilia, a major character, essentially disappears from the story early on, with the only explanation being that she “drifted into cannabis use and a slow mental decline.” Because of this tendency, the book never has a clear, consistent pace, resulting in a confusing timeline; it’s also never made clear how readers are supposed to feel about many of the characters. This is unfortunate, as the heavy subject matter could have used an anchoring emotional guide.
A clunky, awkward examination of abuse, infidelity, and illness.