First-time novelist Thomson explores the excruciating pain of a marriage gone wrong in this dreary tale stretched out over two decades.
In the summer of 1977, two Bostonians are set up on a blind date: Lucy Thornhill, a sensual, free spirit from a privileged background, and Matt Drobyshev, a straight-arrow policeman who grapples with a volatile temper. On the rebound from a passionate fling with the noncommittal Griffin, Lucy feels drawn to the handsome, steady Matt; soon, she and the smitten cop glide effortlessly into marriage and a quiet domestic life in Jamaica Plain. After the births of her two children, Lucy is struggling with postpartum depression and drug use when Griffin reappears, potently seductive. Furious over his wife’s affair, Matt pushes for a divorce and sole custody of Sarah and Nathan but is thwarted by the exigencies of family law, which favor the mother. Fearful for his children’s safety, he abducts them; under new aliases, they hopscotch across the country before settling in Southern California. Sara and Elliot, as they’re now known, grow up in a stable, loving one-parent household, well-adjusted students that believe their mother perished in a house fire when they were toddlers. Elliot eventually enrolls in a music college in Boston, where he stumbles upon Lucy, a divorcee who’s never given up hope that she’d see her children again. Thomson writes in clear if pedestrian prose, shifting between Lucy and Matt, but unfortunately, the novel never transcends the dour particulars of its own he said, she said storytelling. As Lucy notes, Matt “was always so sure of himself as a father....I loved my children beyond measure, but I had a hard time finding my rhythm with them, as if mothering were a dance and I had to keep looking down at my feet.”
Relentlessly grim melodrama, in the vein of Ordinary People and Kramer vs. Kramer.