A busybody attempts to save her friend from financial ruin in Darling’s debut novel.
Can someone be too good a friend? Jane Desmond, the associate editor of a D.C.–based trade magazine for the construction-debris recycling industry, has lunch every Friday with her best friend, Thea Willis. “Whether it’s because we’ve known each other since we were kids, or because she’s just savvy that way, her instincts are spot-on,” Jane reflects. “If she weren’t my best friend I’d find it spooky, but since she is, it’s great. It’s like having a shortcut to a fabulous life.” On this particular Friday, however, it’s all bad news: Thea just lost her job and doesn’t know how she will afford the mortgage on the house she just bought. Jane immediately sets to work helping Thea find a new job—even as Thea prefers to wallow in self-pity. Thea soon tires of Jane’s mother-henning and tells her to back off. When Thea decides to take a two-week Caribbean vacation, the irresponsible decision throws Jane into overdrive, and she goes so far as to pretend to be Thea and apply for jobs. How far can Jane bend a friendship before it snaps? And why is she so much more invested in Thea’s problems than her own? Darling’s (Terms and Conditions, 2019) prose is funny and sometimes quite biting, as in this exchange in which Jane gets some tough love from her own highly intrusive mother: “ ‘Darling, you tend to lay it on a bit thick.’ ‘A bit thick?’ ‘You mean to be helpful, but sometimes you can be…too much.’ She sighed. ‘I don’t know how I let you get this way.’ ‘So I’m bossy?’ ‘Not bossy, not really. Just…suffocating.’ ” Jane is constantly overstepping in a way that drives the reader crazy, and yet she is somehow affable enough to keep the audience on her side. The author does an excellent job portraying a highly believable relationship in which both parties have serious flaws and exploring the broader troubles of 30-something women when it comes to careers, money, and romance.
An incisive and highly readable novel of female friendship.