Multilayered memoir chronicles a young woman’s growth into adulthood, probing the ethics of adultery and portraying an enviable, mature marriage.
Darling was a fledgling Washington Post reporter when she met acclaimed journalist Lee Lescaze. He was married, but that didn’t stop the two from beginning a torrid affair. When Lescaze’s wife found a card she had sent him, Darling wavered a little bit, wanting to tell her lover, “I am a thirty-year-old girl with the moral depth of a dragonfly, and you would be crazy to do anything that connected your happiness to mine.” Nonetheless, he got a divorce and moved in with her. The familiar staples (verging on clichés) of the affair-and-remarriage genre are here: Before Lescaze left his wife, Darling wondered what it would be like to date someone with whom she could be seen in public; afterwards, she desperately tried to get his kids to like her. The real strength of this account is its depiction of the lovers’ eventual marriage. Together, they struggled with the death of Lescaze’s son, then with his own fatal cancer. The most insightful chapter details their first year of marriage. With tender pathos, Darling describes becoming “really married,” the process through which “our initial idea of romance yielded reluctantly to the reality of daily life.” Since their relationship had begun as an affair, this transition from the romantic to the quotidian was especially fraught; Darling could no longer define herself as the exciting vixen who would rescue Lescaze from the dull drudgery of his first marriage. Anyone who is married will laugh with Darling as she describes the disappointment she felt when her new hubby gave her towels for Valentine’s Day, and underline her many insights into the “cycles [of] domestic life.”
Unsettling and absorbing.