A novel traces a forlorn woman’s romantic and artistic journey.
Angela Dunnewald barely keeps it together as a lonely housewife in a wealthy New England suburb. Her daily interactions are typically limited to lunch with Lydia, the larger-than-life socialite who has taken an inexplicable liking to Angela, and brief exchanges with Ina, her stern housekeeper. Angela’s husband, Ross, is often absent and reliably self-absorbed and spiteful when he is home: “Once, when he’d broken a teacup...he’d blamed the table, saying it was too small.” Everything changes when a mysterious stranger starts lurking outside the house. Sensing a kindred spirit, Angela eventually invites him in. Daniel is an itinerant carpenter from a broken home: quiet, gentle, good, and everything Ross is not. Daniel starts visiting regularly, and Angela lives vicariously through imagining his life apart from her. She falls in love with him, enjoying “the sense he gives her that she’s not spinning alone through the dark.” The affair empowers her to think beyond the colorless existence she’s been leading. She enrolls in a local art class and renovates the garden shed, turning it into a studio where she finally feels some sense of purpose. She retreats from Ross and Lydia, but upon discovering that Daniel may be hiding more than just their affair, that relationship, too, threatens to unravel. The novel boasts some stunning turns of phrase bridging Angela’s thoughts and reality. In describing Daniel: “He’s some lean-flanked, fine-boned thing. A deer. Or a wolf. Her mind is caught up in entanglements, people and animals coupling in strange ways, swans, she sees swans, and satyrs.” No moment feels wasted under Legters’ (Connected Underneath, 2016) keen, observant eye. When Angela and Ross attend yet another expensive, stuffy dinner, an oversized menu is “the size of an airplane wing,” and fellow diners wear blank faces “like those huge sunflowers.” All the while, Angela’s frustration that she hasn’t made the most of her life and her path toward self-acceptance ring true in this painfully beautiful tale. Fans of Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road (1961) rejoice.
A heartbreaking and exquisite story about emotional violence.