Secrets, scandals, and SUVs follow a single mother in White’s (The Guests on South Battery, 2017, etc.) latest Southern mystery.
After her husband has an affair, Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves her 10-year-old daughter, Lily, and her 8-year-old son, Colin, to a charming cottage behind a farmhouse in Sweet Apple, Georgia, for a fresh start. Her new landlady, Sugar Prescott, is “two years older than dirt and just as mean”—at least according to Heather Blackford, the class mother at Lily’s new school. (But it’s hard to trust the judgment of a woman who puts $20 Sephora gift cards in the goodie bags she buys for the kids' first day of school.) Merilee struggles to fit in with Heather and the other housewives of Sweet Apple, whose gleaming smiles are more menacing than friendly—but whose friendship is irresistible. Merilee and Sugar form a surprising bond, telling their stories in alternating chapters, while the anonymous author of a local gossip blog fills in the rest of the details with wicked precision. The generational differences between Merilee and Sugar, from parenting styles to use of technology, lend tension even where camaraderie abounds. When a body turns up in Sweet Apple, it brings with it the memory of Merilee’s brother, David, whose death hovers over her like a dark cloud (along with another secret that Merilee thought she had buried for good), making Merilee a target for the blame and scorn of her neighbors. The surprise is not in learning that Merilee’s perfect new friends are not as perfect as they pretend to be but in the way that grief and guilt are passed around like a rejected potluck dish in the wake of a terrible tragedy.
An atmospheric and entertaining look at the friends who keep your secrets—and the friends who keep you guessing until it's too late.