Sharing a bedroom with two young daughters is bound to damage a marriage. So a move from a cramped apartment to the suburbs sounds like a dream come true for Manhattanites Jess and Aaron.
Their new, spacious home in Suffern offers lots of amenities, from a heated driveway to a deck begging for an upscale grill. But Jess and Aaron had not bargained on the neighborhood clique. Before she can even shower, let alone finish unpacking their boxes, Jess is swept up by Alyson, the alpha she-wolf, and her girlfriends. Alcohol-drenched parties rife with gossip fill most nights, while the days pass through a bewildering array of toddler dance classes, mommy breakfasts, and an extensive cast of nannies-on-duty. At first flattered to be part of the popular crowd, Jess is savvy enough—after all, she does work in a New York City advertising firm catering to Broadway—to notice troubling fractures. While making catty remarks and mercilessly judging the excluded neighbors seems par for the course, Jess is disturbed by incidents of parental neglect and insensitive remarks about the less-privileged nannies. When she accidentally oversteps the line Alyson has drawn for her, Jess faces a whiplash-quick scolding and the punishment of a temporary freeze-out. The women’s annual getaway weekend, however, finally shatters Jess’ dreams. Fun and games descend into debauchery and potentially incriminating evidence captured on Alyson’s cellphone. Debut novelist Lender sharply portrays the corrupt privilege of upper-middle-class suburbanites, and with a twist of her pen, the Stepford Wives take the upper hand over their husbands. Yet as she establishes the women’s social power, she leaves the men’s foibles mostly offstage. Consequently, the tension building up over possible blackmail fizzles out, but the climactic explosion takes everyone by surprise.
A bracingly tart portrait of suburban hell.