In this women’s fiction/thriller novel, Myra Benning contends with a cheating husband who may also have sexually abused their teen daughter.
Myra’s professor husband, Derek, has just confirmed her suspicions that he’s been having affairs with his students. In this tense environment, just after son Peter leaves for college, Myra wakes up to her other child Susan’s screams of “Get him off!” Derek says he was comforting the 14-year-old during her nightmare, yet he also oddly remarks how the girl looked “so beautiful, laying there in the moonlight.” Myra asks Derek to leave and brings in the police and a therapist. The latter concludes that Susan is exhibiting characteristics of having been sexually abused, even if there’s no evidence of penetration. Derek then disappears, and the novel jumps 12 years. Susan, now married to a man met in group therapy, has a new baby. Myra has turned her animal illustrations into a successful cartooning career. Then Susan thinks she’s spotted Derek’s car, and Myra senses her house was broken into. Peter, who never believed his father was an abuser, tells Myra that Derek created a new life in a nearby California town. Derek, who still protests his innocence, tells Myra that he retrieved his birth certificate from her house to deal with his family’s legal matters. Informed that Derek’s stoic, also cheated-upon mother, Eleanor, is dying, Myra, now in a relationship with policeman Randy Larson, agrees to a family reunion at Derek’s family home, where Susan recovers a more complete memory of her abuse, prompting a series of tragic yet revelatory events to unfold. Kirscht (The Inheritors, 2012, etc.), a retired university lecturer, brings grace and flair to this third effort. She quickly establishes Myra, a Minnesota native who has always been a bit insecure in the rather enigmatic Derek’s world, as a sympathetic heroine who must now face up to what she may have been enabling in her marriage. Kirscht also plants just enough seeds in her smooth-flowing narrative so that its rather surprising finale doesn’t seem too far out in left field.
Well-wrought female empowerment tale with a dramatic twist ending.