A vibrant landscape of a family shattered by divorce, letting time and choices bring the pieces back together in moving on or letting go.
Ward’s (Hunger, 2001) second novel begins from the perspective of Jack Manoli, lying on his deathbed in the condo he shares with his much younger second wife, Sylvie. His love for Sylvie, his former-secretary-turned-business-partner-and-wife, is absorbing and passionate enough to have caused Jack to start up an affair many years ago and leave his children, Mark and Shelley, with their unstable mother. Upon Jack’s death, his now-adult children are left to decide what is to become of the Rockport lake house that was Sylvie and Jack’s sanctuary, the foundation where their affair solidified into a life together and the site full of bad memories for Mark, as it was where father and son’s relationship broke apart. For Mark, a pot-smoking mosaic artist, art imitates life; his anger is dangerously bottled up, destroying his relationship with his live-in girlfriend just as he shatters ceramic and glass for his mosaic landscapes. Shelley is a teacher working tirelessly to protect her younger brother and create the family life she never had for her husband and two daughters. She hopes to help Mark find a balance “somewhere in between perfection and devastation” creating a reality “where all the many pieces of us—the pleasant and painful—can be reconfigured into an imperfect but solid-enough life”— something their father also strived to create in choosing Sylvie. Ward fashions characters with rich detail, allowing each to leave a distinct impression. While not always likable (Sylvie comes off as a selfish stepmother at times), they are nonetheless genuine. Building layer upon layer of each family member’s story, Ward shows the complexity of divorce from all sides, even revisiting Jack’s thoughts throughout the book. Mark and Shelley are faced with what to do with the lake house and whether to shed the hurt caused by their father’s choices by making new choices for themselves to gain happiness, peace and, ultimately, freedom.
A rich, complex novel that mixes art and life into a story about the decisions that lead to healing or hurt.