British bestseller Jewell's last few novels have been a revelation—emotionally sophisticated and complex—and this latest, which gradually rewrites the history of a "perfect" family, is a fine follow-up.
Late one night, alone and uncharacteristically drunk, 30-year-old Maya is hit by a London bus. Was it an accident? Suicide? Her husband, Adrian, can't imagine why his sweet Maya would want to kill herself, but as the novel unfolds, cracks are revealed in his perfect family. An architect pushing 50, Adrian Wolfe is a lovely man, as everyone agrees. His first wife, Susie, mother of the gregarious Cat and pretentious Luke, both in their 20, holds no hard feelings that he left her in the country for a glamorous London life with the chic Caroline. Caroline lives in their stunningly restored Islington townhouse with their three children, all under 12, Otis, Pearl, and Beau. When, four years ago, Adrian left Caroline for Maya, he made every effort to keep the family intact—all of them holiday together (three wives, five children) and happily share custody. Or so Adrian insists to anyone who asks. When a strange woman begins stalking him, and Luke finds threatening emails addressed to Maya on her laptop, Adrian begins to investigate. In flashbacks from Maya's perspective, another side of the Wolfe family is revealed—she feels like an interloper, childless in a family where children are totems, and is slowly disintegrating from the onslaught of anonymous emails (though she knows they must be from a family member—the missives are too intimate and immediate to have been written by anyone else). Most damning of all, she finds herself falling in love with the family's other outsider, Luke. Adrian is convinced the woman stalking him has answers, if only he can track her down. Although it is certain no one literally pushed Maya into that bus, Jewell shapes the novel as part whodunit, part psychological thriller: Maya was excised from the family, but why and by whom?
Taut pacing and complicated characters shape this rich examination of the modern family.