In this novel by a forensic and rehabilitation psychologist, four women cope with serious challenges during their journey from college to grandmotherhood.
Sarah Brightenham awakens from her coma to find a strange woman in a candy striper uniform in her hospital room claiming to be awaiting the arrival of the patient’s sister. Nicole Fielding, as it turns out, is in the same literature class as Sarah and is eager to prevent her from being forced to enter the psychiatric ward after her overdose. Nicole enlists the help of Rebecca Trumble to pretend to be Sarah’s sister and caretaker. Nicole and Rebecca introduce Sarah to another friend, Clair Coleman. As the four women share their stories and plot revenge on football player Bo, who raped Sarah (precipitating her suicide attempt), they forge a friendship that will last throughout their lives. As each woman encounters a life-altering event, their bond deepens as the other three help her through the catastrophe. Eventually, they add husbands and children to their group, with Clair’s and Sarah’s families later united through marriage. All four women are successful in their chosen fields. But Clair’s three cohorts find her obsessive mothering alternately annoying and lifesaving, as her common-sense approach helps Rebecca discover the truth behind a psychotic break. The engrossing tale concludes as the four women travel first to New York City and then England together to find closure to the biggest crises they have dealt with. The character development is slow in Cools’ (Sometimes a Father, 2017, etc.) novel. With the exception of Sarah, whose story is the first one to be told, the other three women are virtually indistinguishable until they become the focus of the narrative. Even then, Rebecca’s and Nicole’s tales (attempted murder by a vengeful former boss, and the amputation of a foot due to diabetes, respectively) pale in comparison to Sarah’s and Clair’s gripping stories of abuse and loss. Some of the dialogue among the women is too contrived and unrealistic while the endlessly supportive yet one-dimensional spouses stretch credulity (perhaps because all four are improbable dream husbands).
An enjoyable, if slightly implausible, account of four friends who face unimaginable tragedies yet maintain their sense of fun.