Trollope (Second Honeymoon, 2006, etc.) freshens up a tired chick-lit device, the woman’s group, in this story about a group that falls apart when one of the members falls in love.
Eleanor, a retired professional who never married, began the Friday night get-togethers years earlier when she noticed two young single mothers who separately looked lonely and invited them in to her home to meet each other. The father of Paula’s son Toby never left his wife and family but pays Paula child support and occasionally visits Toby, now eight. Lindsay’s husband died before six-year-old Noah was born. Lindsay’s waiflike younger sister Jules, an aspiring DJ, begins to show up. So does Eleanor’s neighbor Blaise, a business consultant who like Eleanor has chosen work over family. Blaise introduces her business partner Karen, married and struggling to balance her domestic responsibilities with her professional ambitions. The friends find comfort and support in the Friday nights spent talking and drinking wine. Then one Friday Paula arrives with her new beau Jackson, both to show him off and get her friends’ approval. A pucklike figure, the charming if emotionally elusive Jackson insinuates himself into the group, triggering a mix of reactions. Lindsay resents that Paula ignores their previously close friendship for a man. Jules believes Jackson is going to give her a career. Her marriage foundering, Karen is sexually drawn to Jackson and mistakenly thinks he is interested in her. Both Blaise and Eleanor, women without other emotional ties, suffer the loss of the community they depend on. And Paula is too gaga over Jackson to pay attention to anyone else, including needy Toby. There are no villains or heroines here, just women—and men—trying to make sense of the limits that their choices and personalities have imposed on their lives. By the time Jackson slips away, or is pushed away by Paula, the characters have realigned, wiser and mostly happier.
Insightful and reassuring if a little contrived.