An intriguing first novel that revolves around a husband’s death and hidden secrets.
Pam Smith lives an apparently charmed life as a well-to-do Babylon, N.Y., homemaker in a large house by the water. In her 50s with her children grown, Pam is happy with her exemplary husband Jack. After he has a heart attack on the subway, however, the protagonist finds out more than she ever wanted to know about Jack. She uncovers a weapon in his desk, his extramarital affair, his mistress’ potential pregnancy and his possible abuse of her younger sister Marie, who comes to visit every weekend. Bordering on preposterous but consistently interesting, this psychological novel contains some mystery and moves along quickly for a non-thriller. While Pam is the novel’s protagonist, Jack’s mistress Sandra and Marie also play key roles. The three women all feel betrayed by Jack, and the plot focuses on their reactions to his deception. Pam, though, feels drawn to Sandra in empathy while Marie is angry and jealous. The women develop an odd bond, and Pam even invites the other two women for a weekend to relax at the beach house in Babylon—a hostess gesture that seems a bit extreme. The novel also focuses on Jack and Pam’s mothers, the latter of whom is having a hard time living alone in Brooklyn—Pam, of course, brings her to Babylon, too. Jenkins is skilled in her presentation of the characters’ inner thoughts, particularly at Jack’s funeral, where Pam’s emotions are decidedly mixed as various facts about her late spouse come to light. While the novel is convincing during moments between the main female characters, the plotline strains from narrative overload as extortion and issues of parentage come into play. Themes of sisterhood and abuse run through the book, and the three women shift between rivalry and friendship before becoming empowered by Jack’s demise.
Women’s fiction with a touch of noir.