A husband who makes a habit of disappearing, a loyal wife who covers for him: in a strong debut, Solomon explores the aftermath of one disappearance too many.
Laz and Grace Brookman are a well-heeled Manhattan couple in their 30s. For Grace, their five-year-old marriage has been blissfully happy; Laz is a charmer liked by everyone. True, he pressured Grace into giving up her job as a ceramics teacher (she loved it) and insisted they remain childless, but she went along without complaint. As for those disappearances, never more than a week at a time, Grace has learned to take them in stride. So when Laz disappears again, on Halloween, she begins her campaign of deception—and self-deception. She has learned her skills from her loving but overprotective parents, for whom “keeping people in the dark . . . was a gesture of love and devotion, not deceit.” It starts out as a fun project for Grace—fooling the housekeeper, and inventing reasons why Laz can’t attend her parents’ weekly Scrabble games. Even their best friend Kane must be deceived, not so easy when they’re playing a truth-telling game at a bar while downing Cosmopolitans. It’s the holiday season: Grace’s life is a whirl of games and festivities. But has Laz been playing a cruel game of his own? Rumors circulate that his latest book, on Kosovo and highly acclaimed, may have been based on a hoax; but Grace tunes them out. The turning-point comes with the appearance of the student Griffin, Laz’s son from a long-ago liaison, who’s looking for a first meeting with his father. As resentment builds in Grace, so she grows stronger, accepting the truth of a failed marriage. It’s all believable but overly familiar: think how many have traveled this road since Ibsen’s Nora flew the coop.
What sets this one apart, though, and gives it promise isn’t Grace’s emancipation, but its spirit of playful inventiveness, at times reminiscent of Iris Murdoch.