In this debut novel, a married woman confronts her might-have-beens and searches for her true self.
Annie Tucker, her husband, Gordon, and their three young children have spent many peripatetic years in Asia as Gordon climbed the career ladder. Now, in 1997, with the handover of Hong Kong approaching, they’ve moved back to the United States and are decamping to Martha’s Vineyard for the summer to stay in the small house left to Annie by her beloved Aunt Faye. Annie possesses many warm memories of the island’s beauty—and of Chase St. Clair, the former love of her life. When Gordon is called back to Hong Kong to deal with an emergency lasting weeks, perfectionist Annie must manage things, and soon becomes overwhelmed by the difficulties of life without a nanny or an instant expatriate community. When Annie nearly drowns after getting caught in a riptide and tells Gordon, significantly toning down the story, he doesn’t seem to listen, hurting her feelings. Vulnerable from the scare and sad about Faye, Annie runs into Chase (still handsome, still broad-shouldered, now married with kids), and strong emotions are stirred in both. Annie must figure out how real her feelings are for Chase; in the meantime, she makes some friends, acquires a dog and a mother’s helper, and faces down her now biggest fear: the ocean. In the process, she becomes more accepting of life’s cracks and imperfections. In her novel, Eger shows herself to be an intelligent, sensitive storyteller with a strong sense of place, vividly evoking the Vineyard’s residents, landmarks, shops, and atmosphere. She writes dialogue, creates characters, and develops her tale with great skill. But Annie’s life is so privileged that her very mild conflicts can fail to engage the reader. As she admits, “A lot of women would kill to have my problems.” Perhaps on this account, Eger gins up drama with Annie’s second dangerous swim; unlike so much of the book, which unfolds more naturally, this episode feels like contrived, forced redemption—even ending with an all-too-symbolic rainbow.
This well-written work benefits from the heroine’s admirable willingness to examine herself honestly.