In her eighth half-successful outing, Huston (The Mark of the Angel, 1999, etc.) depicts a woman torn between the pulls of domestic love and professional passion.
Dancer/choreographer Lin and her husband Derek, a philosophy professor, live an idyllic existence with their two young daughters in a small New England town. Although happily married and almost obsessively in love with her children, Lin begins to recognize darker feelings, particularly toward her second, more difficult daughter. These doubts about her abilities as a mother aren’t illogical, given the models Lin is surrounded by. Her own mother died young, her best friend Rachel was abandoned by her mother, a would-be lover was emotionally smothered by his mother, and Derek’s is crassly commonplace—to Lin, the worst offense of all. In her mind (and maybe in the author’s as well), the artist is a superior being to whom ordinariness is the enemy. In brief and sometimes elliptical scenes, Huston traces Lin’s evolution into a woman who chooses to abandon her family in order to pursue her career, showing little desire, once she’s gone, even to visit her kids with any regularity. In chronicling this decline—or ascent—Huston writes with precision, though her use of dreams and snatches of fairy tale steps over the line into the precious, while Lin’s pursuit of dance is romanticized and just too perfect. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from showing Lin’s children as battered survivors, obviously scarred by growing up without their mother, while, on the other hand, Derek’s remarriage is portrayed almost as a character flaw—as if Lin’s rejection of him puts her on the moral high ground because she never loved anyone else. Whether sacrifice of family is required by Lin’s art or merely by her selfishness remains the unanswered question.
Unsettling, sometimes annoying—but, still, hard to put down.