Friendship and literature awaken a trophy wife to the harsh banalities of her home life.
Chloe Wohlscott is precisely the mother and wife her husband Avery wants her to be—pretty, agreeable and attentive to their intelligent son, Teddy. She’s the perfect matron for the picturesque family he’s building. But when Avery moves them to a posh housing development, Chloe becomes drawn to their unconventional neighbor, Sophie, whose strong intellectual spirit begins to change the way Chloe sees herself and the world around her. Together, they bond over Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Chopin’s The Awakening, works that touched Chloe in the past and now too-closely echo her situation. Slowly, her obedience changes to defiance, which moves her to reclaim the artistic spirit she long ago put away for her husband’s dreams. Allnach’s (Remnant, 2010) first full-length novel may seem familiar on the surface, just another look into the ennui of upper-class suburban life, but the author's subtle tweaks and deft, clever maneuvering through recognizable subject matter make the book stand out. No character is instantly likeable—not even the alluring Sophie, who Chloe first views as an interloper—and the book’s ability to build off these flaws to intrigue readers, instead of alienating them, makes many old tropes feel new. The novel’s use of literary allegories could have easily backfired, as any story that calls so heavily on other books is almost always going to seem derivative, yet when pulling away from those works, the novel still manages to stand firmly. Yes, less would have been more as it concerns Sophie and Chloe’s clunky literary analysis, but nothing is sacrificed for it, and its presence does place Allnach’s work in the tradition of those other tales. There’s enough foreshadowing that the ending, while predictable, feels deserved, a tragedy more satisfying than the doldrums it springs from.
Skirts melodrama, but remains a touching, intimate tale of warts-and-all personal discovery.