Motherhood sinks to an all-time low in Boehringer’s bleak debut, set in the soulless suburbs of South Florida.
Meg O’Hara, a young mother of two, accidentally hits and kills her 27-month-old son, Jordan, as she is pulling into her driveway in her SUV while the father, Paul, is distracted ogling the neighbor in her short-shorts. After this nightmarish start, the only move toward redemption for these unlovable characters is in engendering the reader’s sympathy, but Boehringer rejects that route. Instead, she compounds Meg’s erratic behavior as her guilt almost kills her. Meg harbors deep suspicions about her husband’s fidelity, especially when the suspect neighbor, Susie, seems always to be at their house. Meg herself is the product of an alcoholic mother whose drunken behavior caused the car accident that killed Meg’s father and brother. Now, Meg decides to quit her job as an actuary and, first, spend the day finding things for her and her 11-month-old daughter, Madeline, to do, such as join a self-help group of parents of children with cancer—after a group of parents with dead children rejects her. She drives around a lot with Maddie—like, 58 times slowly through the neighborhood in order to monitor any accidents, then hangs out at the airport bar (with Maddie) drinking wine, where she meets a sympathetic man, Al, whom she considers sleeping with. After witnessing another accident—literally in her front yard—and failing to revive the victim, who happens to be Susie’s married lover, Meg (with Maddie) takes up sneaking into Susie’s house and feeling comforted by her tidy surroundings. As Meg grows more deeply confused, her marriage with conflicted, blameworthy Paul deteriorates. Boehringer seems committed to making Meg sound as ungracious and nasty as possible, her very prose sarcastic;moreover, and Meg’s litany about her unfitness as a mother rings hollow, since the author offers little emotional context for the hand-wringing.
A first novel as testimony to a mother’s hell—without transcendence.