In her new novel, Cote (The Long Road, 2006) tells the story of two New England women with complex family issues.
Cecelia is in therapy, on antidepressants, and handling a drinking problem she keeps under control, more or less. She had one child out of wedlock before she married into a wealthy, WASPy family; her second, conceived with her husband, died quickly of complications that may have been caused by her drinking. Lannie, meanwhile, has three children, each by a different father. She’s an accounting student at the local community college, and her life is a hectic barrage of scraped knees, school schedules, and broken thermostats. After a chance encounter at a clinic, Cecelia decides to drive Lannie and her children around for a day. At the same time, Cecelia is on a quest to taper off her antidepressants, and her marriage is on the rocks. The connection between the two women may provide them both with the emotional support they need, but the friendship’s difficulties may be more than either woman can manage; things may, in fact, turn bloody. Cote is an adept juggler of characters and scenes; her dense novel has a large supporting cast of kids, lovers, and in-laws, but Cote weaves Cecelia and Lannie through them in a way that keeps everyone and everything coherent. Her ear for dialogue is sharp, and the worlds she builds around her main characters, at both ends of the class spectrum, are extensive and true-to-life. These aren’t women who ask for pity, either from readers or the people around them. Yet their desire to communicate is clear: for example, after Lannie explains her situation to Cecelia, she thinks that “she should stop now, pull back her situation, squash the need—growing rapidly of late—to explain herself to a world outside her own.” The novel affords these women the space to air their all-too-real troubles, as only inspired fiction can.
An affecting, charming tale about the challenges of preserving one’s self in the face of motherhood.