A fast-moving novel from King (The Stones Speak, 2009, etc.) about a woman’s search for self.
As the story opens, a husband tells his wife of 40 years that he’s leaving her for another, younger woman. The suddenness of the news is surprising, and the shock at first unhinges Laura. She’s a 60-year-old grant writer who gave up her shot at a Ph.D. for the sake of her husband Zach’s architecture career. Until now, their life in Oberlin, Ohio, had seemed fulfilling—at least, until she was forced to examine it. After six days of dwelling in an abyss of grief and uncertainty, “without warning, she surfaced.” Laura realizes that she must move on, and readers will follow her eagerly. Instead of looking backward into its protagonist’s hazy past for clues that might have led to the affair, the story travels forward. Laura goes to a conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which kick-starts an adventurous series of events. There, she meets intriguing, capricious women; charming, jealous men; and eventually, the firmer side of herself. Using a straightforward, no-frills style that’s light on description, the novel’s main offering is its empowering, new-world/new-self theme. The story careens forward, mostly in a credible way, after launching from a startling revelation. The characters are clearly drawn, and though the headlong pace doesn’t allow them much time to develop, each person is shown to have his or her own secrets. Some lessons are predictable; for example, as much as Laura struggles to learn “how not to be Mrs. Zachary Feldman,” she finds that learning how to be herself is harder. Other lessons, however, hum underneath the surface. How far can she go to fashion a new self before the good parts of the original evaporate in the dry desert air? How can she conceive the boundaries of her self as they cross into and withdraw from others’? Laura’s perspective dominates, but passages from other characters’ points of view reveal how much we all might be living behind partial disguises, even from ourselves.
A story that raises tricky questions about relationships between women and men, the longevity of family ties, and the friendships within literal and symbolic sisterhoods.