A well-intentioned melodrama in which a manipulative lothario becomes a sincere and sensitive man.
Teddy Mathison, a charming, handsome lawyer, is using those qualities in his bid for the U.S. Senate. Thanks to his hard-as-nails campaign manager Judith (with whom he occasionally has sex in the back of the limo), chances are good he’ll be representing California very soon. The only problem is his family values numbers are a bit low— divorced and barely speaking to his teenage daughter doesn’t sit well with the voters. Luckily, his mother is about to die, or at least lucky is how Judith sees it. Strong-armed by his sister, Teddy agrees to spend a week in Nantucket with the indomitable Kate Mathison, who is rapidly succumbing to the effects of Alzheimer’s. He hasn’t seen her in years, and his daughter Zoe, with whom he has scheduled time for the next few weeks, has never met her. But Judith is insisting on a family photo to release to the press. When Teddy arrives, Kate’s behavior swings from icy to addled, while Zoe only removes her iPod to insult her father. Then long-time family friend Frank gives Teddy a letter that softens his perspective—Teddy discovers that the father he idolized was really quite a cad and committed suicide. He reevaluates his relationship with his mother, most of which is built on childish misunderstandings, and comes to appreciate her for the feisty, brilliant artist she is. But that leaves Zoe, who is discovered cutting herself, and Liza, an island resident he feels a deep connection to, but who has baggage of her own. While Judith is demanding Teddy return to California, Teddy considers his many failings with the women in his life, and begins to mend his wicked ways, though his transformation to doting father and son seems a bit too easily made.
Goldstein (All That Matters, 2004) delivers a companionable story, though the do-the-right-thing ending is just what one would expect from a novel with few surprises.