An anonymous valentine leads a middle-aged, happily married woman into a sexual labyrinth.
Sherry, an English professor at a community college in Michigan, and her software designer husband, Jon, are adjusting to being empty nesters when Sherry receives her first anonymous love note. Amused and flattered, she casually tells both her husband and her best friend Sue. As the notes continue, Sherry finds herself sexually awakened for the first time in years, and she begins masturbating to fantasies of her admirer. Meanwhile, Sherry runs into her son Chad’s childhood friend Garret, who is studying car mechanics. Although the boys have not been friends for years, Sherry, feeling guilty that Garret’s life holds so much less promise than Chad’s, invites Garret for supper during Chad’s spring break from Berkley. When the subject of Sherry’s love notes comes up during the awkward meal, Garret says that his teacher Bram, who has been singing Sherry’s praises in class, is probably her admirer. Sherry soon plunges into a torrid affair with Bram while Jon, titillated by the idea of Sherry taking a lover, not only allows but encourages their meetings. The only problem is that Bram didn’t write the letters and Jon has been assuming that Sherry’s description of her affair is a fiction she’s created to fire up their own sex life. In other hands, these misunderstandings could turn into dark hilarity, but Kasischke (The Life Before Her Eyes, 2001, etc.) aims toward tragedy, using delicate, elegant prose to expose the psychological and moral rot that can lie beneath the most normal façade. She gets right to the core, whether describing Sherry’s maternal sense of loss as her son pulls away from childhood or her suddenly awakened animal lust for both Bram and Jon. Unfortunately, Kasischke gives Chad, who remains only half realized, too much responsibility for a plot that falls apart at the end.
Imperfect but emotionally wrenching.