A busy first novel from Fonseca (Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey, 1995) depicts a wife grappling with infidelity (her husband’s and her own), mortality and responsibility.
Although it moves from St. Jacques (a tiny island in the Indian Ocean) to London, then to New York and back to St. Jacques, the book essentially charts domestic territory as it follows American-born Jean Hubbard’s quest for wisdom in her marriage and life choices. Despite a dazzling law degree, Jean set her career aside to marry young. Her British husband Mark now runs a flourishing ad agency, daughter Victoria is at university and Jean writes about health for women’s magazines. But during a sabbatical on the island of St. Jacques, Jean’s sense of certainty begins to waver after she discovers e-mails (and photo attachments) from Giovana, apparently Mark’s lewd young lover, and also confronts the possibility of breast cancer. Keeping both developments a secret, Jean returns to London and—even more inexplicably—spends a night of amazing sex with Mark’s office deputy. Then it’s on to Manhattan where her father’s recuperation from heart surgery has turned critical. Fonseca relies on Jean’s internal musings as her narrative vehicle, but this method doesn’t successfully unite the heroine’s intellect with her actions. Oddly, Jean’s passivity pays off when a tumbling sequence of revelations brings on a redefinition of both past and future.
A witty, intelligent but uneven debut, weakened by its occasionally exasperating heroine and a conclusion that boils down to less than expected.