On the day Californians cast a groundbreaking vote, a doctor is confronted with situations that compel her to contemplate her past, present and future in Richmond’s (The Year of Fog, 2007, etc.) contemporary novel.
Dr. Julie Merrill’s having a bad day, and it’s a real doozy. The document officially ending her marriage to husband Tom has just been signed, her pregnant sister, Heather, has gone into labor across town, her Jeep’s been vandalized while Californians swarm to the polls to vote on secession, and she’s injured her foot. To top it off, a veteran suffering from PTSD—whom she once considered a friend and confidant but who then turned into a frightening stalker—has resurfaced, and he’s now holding some of her fellow workers hostage at the VA hospital. The story takes place during the course of one day and teeters back and forth between past and present as Julie hobbles to Heather’s side at the VA hotel, tries to maintain a phone conversation with the gunman to keep him from harming people, and reflects upon her humble beginnings and broken marriage. At the core of Julie’s life is an event that’s caused years of estrangement between the sisters, destroying Julie’s solid marriage and triggering Heather’s enlistment in the Army and deployment to Afghanistan. But when Heather shows up pregnant and asks for help, Julie can’t deny the bond that exists between them. Richmond creates an exciting premise and uses an unusual approach to develop the plot. Rather than a narrative that reflects a sense of urgency and tension produced by the hostage-taking and secession scenarios, Julie’s past and her relationship with the other characters are scrutinized as the clock ticks. It’s an interesting and sometimes-disturbing study exploring how a person’s anticipated path can change and examining the choices people must make in order to move forward.