Lucy Painter’s love for unreliable men has resulted in a life built on shame and secrets, until a crisis involving her own daughter cracks the mold.
A conspiracy of silence, matched by the Watergate-hearings background, enfolds Shreve’s (Warm Springs, 2007, etc.) readable family drama that opens with 12-year-old Lucy Baldwin discovering her father’s suicide. Instructed by her mother never to speak of their shame, Lucy has spent subsequent years not dealing with the trauma. Now a successful children’s writer, she has held a long relationship with her married editor in New York, the father of her two children, who has often talked of leaving his wife but has never done it. Finally, Lucy and the children, Felix and Maggie, have relocated to D.C., to the selfsame house where her father died. Felix takes the move well; Maggie however is becoming infuriated by her mother’s secrecy and wants to know the identity of her father. Across the road lives another mother with a secret, Zee Mallory, who craves Maggie as the daughter she never had. As Maggie falls under Zee’s spell, Lucy is forced to act and speak.
The gothic finale doesn’t fully deliver, but with her engaging tale and prose as fluid as Sue Miller’s or Anna Quindlen’s, if quirkier, Shreve hits the commercial bull’seye.