A middle-aged woman anticipates new freedom, only to have troubles land on her with a vengeance, in McFadden’s follow-up to The Richest Season (2008).
Claire, 45, is ready to get out of Jersey. She’s winding up 25 years of teaching, has taken up serious study of photography and is engaged to marry Rick, a golf-loving hedonist with an Arizona townhouse. Then Claire’s estranged daughter Amy, 23, returns home, her weight problem apparently worse than ever—until she gives birth just as her mother is about to leave for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: a career-making photography workshop in Cape Cod. Claire is now stuck with a resentful daughter, a newborn granddaughter, Rose, whose paternity Amy won’t discuss, and elderly parents who rely mostly on her, since out-of-state brother Eugene is too busy with his own career and family. Claire’s father Joe has Parkinson’s, and her mother Fanny, increasingly addled at 77, can’t cope. The workshop and the wedding must wait, but what is she going to do about John, the freelance writer who’s supposed to be renting her house while she’s in Provincetown? He finds another place, but he wants to use her photographs in an article on New Jersey’s abandoned canal system; working with John, Claire finds herself dangerously attracted. Then she gets another chance at the workshop, and with Amy, Rose and her parents (sprung from assisted living) in tow, Claire heads for Cape Cod. There, Joe tries to reconnect with a wartime love, Ava. Upset that Joe has never come clean with her about Ava, Fanny seeks solace in Buddhism and romance with local restaurateur Dominick. Provincetown also happens to be home base for John, who is working to publicize the plight of endangered whales and seals. The ever-escalating complications are fun, but this story of second chances smacks of middle-aged wish-fulfillment: There’s even a scene in which Rick and John fight over Claire.
A busy plot, rendered in listless prose and populated by one-dimensional characters.