After undergoing a wrenching change, a middle-aged woman is challenged with confronting uncomfortable truths and moving on.
In a prologue, readers meet a deeply distraught Cynthia Lewis, who is moving into a new house but not with her husband, Philip. “How could he have done this to her? How could he!” The meaning of these words is revealed over the course of the novel. Cynthia, a nurse, is 55, with a daughter in college and son in high school. She’s long wanted to get her master’s degree in nursing, but “her dream was forgotten by everyone, sometimes even herself.” Philip, a financial adviser about to turn 55, works long hours at his high-pressure job and worries about a “situation” that he’s keeping secret. The ramifications of this secret play out over family occasions—birthdays, holidays—and Philip’s desire to move from Atlanta to St. Simon’s Island. Though Cynthia worries about Philip and a woman who keeps turning up, family matters take her attention, such as wedding planning for her daughter, Millie, after an unexpected pregnancy. Several family tragedies and revelations stun Cynthia. In her debut novel, Todd shows intelligence in her evocative descriptions of family life and the complicated emotions involved, such as Cynthia’s changing feelings toward the man her daughter marries. Many readers will appreciate Cynthia’s big-picture decisions. Surprises abound, and Todd wisely avoids too easy a fix in the shape of a new, wealthy, and enamored man. The novel tends toward melodrama, however, and there’s a soap-operatic quality to this family’s privileged life combined with high emotions and life-changing events. And Betty Franklin, who co-owns a barbecue restaurant, is a clichéd character, the minority (here, African-American) with special insight who’s eager to help the white protagonist.
An over-the-top but well-constructed family novel with a relatable lead.