Matson (The Hunger Moon, 1997) covers the familiar territory of suburban marital angst in this caring but rather enervated novel about a couple who take their marriage for granted until lightning strikes, literally. Greg and Patty Goodman were high-school sweethearts. Twenty years later, Greg is a likable, not terribly ambitious high-school teacher, Patty an accountant `Superwoman` who keeps her home spotless and family well nurtured. Satisfied with their marriage, their two-story house, their adolescent twin daughters, and their still-youthful figures, the two seem ripe for a fall. It comes during a routine practice of the junior-varsity football team Greg coaches, when a 15-year-old player is fatally struck by lightning. While Greg's responsibility is settled by lawsuits, the accident brings out his moral vulnerabilities, which in turn release hidden needs in Patty. Switching back and forth between the spouses' points of view, Matson shows more skill portraying men than women. Rigid Patty never comes to life, and her softened personality at the end is never earned. Greg's behavior is increasingly sleazy, particularly when he becomes involved with the dead boy Tim's long-lost mother, yet the choices he makes are less predictable than Patty's, and he wins the reader's sympathy. On stage only briefly, Matson's most riveting characters are actually Tim himself, who wanted so much to play football, and his gruff yet protective father. Matson allows them an underlying passion missing from the rest of the book.
Despite the lightning at its center, a novel that throws off few sparks.