Memoirist Dudman (Expecting to Fly, 2004, etc.) turns to fiction in this brief novel about middle-aged passion.
Virginia is in the olive aisle of her local gourmet grocery when she sees David for the first time since he dumped her nine months earlier after a ten-year affair. Virginia flees the store, then impulsively climbs into the backseat of David’s truck. When he returns to the truck and starts to drive, she stays hidden under a jumble of his old sweaters, reminiscing about their relationship. The affair began when she was a 40-year-old divorcee with two kids and a job managing an ad agency. He was ten years older, also divorced, with grown kids and a business never described. During the early years he was madly in love and repeatedly proposed marriage. She repeatedly refused. She loved having a boyfriend, but liked to keep him at arm’s length. Preoccupied with friends, family and job—although details remain fuzzily in the background in her obsessive retelling—she never paid him the attention he craved. Later on, she found David’s increasing depression annoying, and their sexual relationship, so central in their early years together, became problematic as well. Moreover, his desire to talk over his issues with her made her feel pressured. In their last year together her strongest feeling toward him became irritation. Ironically, since he rejected her, she has been obsessed with David. Now arriving at his house, Virginia still avoids revealing herself. She escapes the car when he goes inside. When he leaves again, she finds her way inside his house. Lying on his bed, she relives New Year’s Eve, when he admitted he’d begun seeing someone else. Virginia is unflinching in her self-portrait, sorting through her true and egoistic emotions until she recognizes David, and herself, for who they really are.
Sometimes annoyingly self-absorbed, but at its best, a story delivered with clarity, elegance and the oomph of lived experience.