The members of a high-achieving Marin County family face their fears: applying to college, blowing a deal, revealing their secrets.
It’s a tense year for the Hawthornes. Nora, a real estate agent, is trying to get past a dry spell by finding a buyer for the Watkins house, which the current owners insist on pricing slightly too high at $8.8 million. Gabe, a consultant, is trying to avoid his firm’s overconfident new intern, who seems to think she has something on him. (Spoiler alert: she does, and it won’t take long to figure out what it is.) Oldest daughter Angela, the class valedictorian, is applying to college—one college only: her father’s alma mater, Harvard—and popping pills to keep up with her homework and extracurricular commitments. Middle daughter Cecily has always been the happy child, excelling at the offbeat activity of Irish dance, but something seems to be troubling her. And youngest daughter Maya, who’s in second grade, still doesn’t know how to read; Nora secretly worries that it’s her fault, since Maya fell on her head as a baby while her mother was busy on a work call. Each chapter is told from a different character’s viewpoint, but perhaps because women like Nora are the book’s target audience, it’s she who really comes alive—and it’s her tension that permeates the book. Nora’s brain is always running through to-do lists, and her anxiety is contagious. Not pleasant anxiety, the kind you feel when you’re reading a Stephen King novel. The unpleasant kind you feel in your own life when you have too much to do and too little time to get it done. She spends two pages, on and off, thinking about the dishwasher—how it’s still running, how she could have hand-washed the dishes faster, how she finally unloaded it. Moore (So Far Away, 2012, etc.,) has an excellent eye for the minutiae of upper-middle-class life, but it gets exhausting immersing yourself in another family’s worries on top of your own.
Moore’s readers may find this book cuts a little too close to home.