A painfully honest, moving family saga—and first novel—by sculptor, professor, and multigenre author Peck (Sculpture as Experience, 2007).
Tracing the relationship of Arielle Fischer and Stuart Brockman from their first meeting in 1968 through courtship, marriage, parenthood and, ultimately, death, Peck offers a candid portrayal of the challenges encountered by a successful professional woman balancing work, marriage and motherhood. Although Arielle’s parents and sister support her juggling act, her husband—struggling with mental health issues and jealousy of her success—and his family seem to only blame Arielle for all that goes wrong, without recognizing all that she does right. Many readers will be baffled by Arielle not heeding her initial impression of Stuart on their disastrous first date. Not only does she continue to see and, eventually, marry the troubled and troubling Stuart, but she remains married to him when most women would have left. Stranger still, she believes she loves him. The disturbing trek through nearly 30 years of the Brockmans’ lives together should be depressing, but Arielle’s eternal optimism (Stuart calls her his “light”) and no-nonsense attitude prevent the book from being too dark. Arielle copes with not only Stuart’s but their children’s bad decisions and the turmoil they create—all of which Stuart blames on Arielle because he apparently had no role in their upbringing. Upsetting subject matter aside, the novel is a touching, no-holds-barred depiction of a dysfunctional family on the brink of brokenness. Peck proves herself to be as much an artist with words as she is with other media. Stuart’s description of Arielle’s luminosity is spot-on, although she reveals a curiously shallow depth of introspection, despite the fact that the book is written in first person. Arielle never really questions her own decisions or shows much pain in the face of the cruelty she suffers at the hands of the others.
Arielle’s story will resonate with readers—particularly women of a certain age—eager to will her to leave her bastard husband.