Neighboring families in a New York commuter suburb are entwined, root and branch, through work, their children, and a tragedy of profound consequence.
Displaying impressive reach in this third—and possibly breakout—novel, Keane (Fever, 2013, etc.) delivers an epic of domestic emotional turmoil. Its twin families are united initially through the careers of Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, who meet as unmarried rookies in the New York City police academy. Later, now with partners, they move into adjacent homes in the safe-seeming small town of Gillam, where Francis’ wife, Lena, gives birth to three daughters, Sara, Natalie, and Kate. Brian’s wife, Anne, whose temperament is increasingly mercurial, loses her first child but then has a boy, Peter. Friendship between Peter and Kate is cemented from the outset, and as teenagers, the couple’s affections intensify. But on the night Peter tells Kate he thinks they will marry one day, Anne’s mental disturbance and violence reach a climax, one that inflicts terrible, indelible damage and drives Peter and Kate apart. Narrated from multiple perspectives, in compassionate but cool tones, Keane’s story embraces family lives in all their muted, ordinary, yet seismic shades. The Gleesons offer solidity and an assumption that marriage will endure, no matter the tests. The Stanhopes, however, are seamed with inherited fault lines, and Peter will not emerge unscathed from his upbringing. Keane offers empathy and the long view, across a larger spectrum of issues than is at first apparent, pursuing her story for decades while adhering to Anne’s observation "that the beginning of one’s life mattered the most, that life was top-heavy that way." Tender and patient, the novel avoids excessive sweetness while planting itself deep in the soil of commitment and attachment.
Graceful and mature. A solidly satisfying, immersive read.