LIFE, UNRAVELING by Martha D. Smith-Henderson


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A clandestine affair, a shocking pregnancy and an enormous cast of flawed characters make for an alternately gloomy and heartening soap opera.

To the outside world, it appears that the ever-strong Dale Little is living a variation on the American dream: happy marriage, happy child, happy house, happy career, happy everything. But her idyllic world soon comes crashing down when she discovers that her husband Ty has been having an affair with the beguiling pseudo–femme fatale Stacey. Dale considers forgiving her husband’s transgression, but things spiral further downward when Dale learns that Stacey is pregnant with Ty’s twins. Then, when Stacey dies, Dale is faced with even more difficult choices. Should she pull the plug on the marriage? Or should she tough it out, put the betrayal behind her and try to make a new life with Ty (and the twins)? Considering the setup, the author could have easily veered into the maudlin and implausible, but the prose and characterizations of the protagonists are both solid–even though the number of characters exceeds critical mass in such a short novel; a sharper focus on Dale and Ty would have tightened the narrative. But Smith-Henderson creates a painfully realistic portrait of thoughtlessness, betrayal and heartbreak, a poignant story of love, friendship and duplicity that is as much Anne Tyler as Terry McMillan. If she can maintain the focus on her protagonists, and resist cluttering the narrative with too many secondary characters, she could earn a wide audience.

A competent debut that would translate well to the small screen.

Pub Date: Nov. 6th, 2006
ISBN: 978-0-595-39150-9
Program: Kirkus Indie
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