One day, 8-year-old Miriam Delaney’s mother, Frances, showed up at her school in nothing but athletic socks. Humiliated and shunned by her classmates, Miriam withdrew deep inside herself, speaking only in whispers.
Under her abusive mother’s thumb, Miriam lost not only her voice, but also all connection to her father, her grandmother, and anyone who might have rescued her. After Frances’ death and a dark encounter in the woods, the now-adult Miriam secludes herself in her home for three years, reducing her social world to best friend Fenella and Boo, a track-suited neighbor whose secret love for Miriam has led him to volunteer as her handyman. At last, at the age of 35, Miriam is ready to leave the house, and her steps lead her into the woods, where she runs into Ralph. A reluctant psychotherapist, suppressed gardener, and father to 16-year-old twins, Ralph has just discovered his wife, Sadie, kissing another woman. Realizing that his marriage, indeed his whole post-college life, has been a sham, Ralph has simply walked away. Miriam and Ralph connect, listening to each other’s stories, giving each other tacit permission to cast off the shells of fake lives. Meanwhile, Sadie, usually obsessed with blogging and tweeting a perfect life, struggles with her own long-repressed attraction to women. Debut novelist Elliott carefully, step by step, draws together the intersecting lives of these people who have let others dictate their identities and storylines. Abusive parents, traumatized children, sexual confusion—all could lead down clichéd, sentimental paths, but just when the tale risks becoming maudlin, Elliott calls up another character, who’s been lurking in the background, underscoring how hyperconnected our lonely world is. As the barriers break down, Miriam, Ralph, and Sadie redraw the lines of relationships, rechart their futures, and rediscover their voices.
A charming portrait of quirky characters who transcend heartbreak.