Two women, former lovers, reconnect with each other and themselves in Brownrigg’s sequel (which can be read independently) to her 2001 novel, Pages for You.
Flannery Jansen is married to a famous artist, living in the Bay Area, and raising (not quite single-handedly) the couple’s young daughter, Willa. When Flannery was in her 20s, before she became the third wife of the mercurial, charismatic Charles Marshall, she wrote two books, one a bestselling erotic memoir about her journey across Mexico with the woman who was then her lover to find her absent “aging American hippie” father. But the chapter of Flannery’s life that left the deepest emotional imprint on her came earlier still, when she was a coltish undergrad at Yale, deeply in love with a graduate student named Anne Arden. Anne taught Flannery about art, literature, and, ultimately, heartbreak. When Flannery’s thoughts keep her up at night, she turns them to the perfect relationship she imagines Anne has with the man for whom she left her, Jasper. But just as motherhood has dramatically altered Flannery’s identity and trajectory, Anne’s decision never to have children has shaped hers. Jasper, having developed a sudden, late-in-life yearning to have kids, has abandoned Anne after two decades together to start a family with someone else—someone young and French. Reunited at a literary conference—“Women Write the World”—at the university where their original love story played out, Flannery and Anne find their ways back to each other. In so doing, each woman also finds her way back to herself. Brownrigg (The Delivery Room, 2008, etc.) approaches her characters with clarity and sensitivity, capturing the nuances in the women’s relationships to the people they love—as mother, daughter, sister, friend, wife, or lover—and the power they give those people to define and inspire them. Though the author’s touch is generally deft, the prose does, at times, get a bit moist. Ultimately, however, the story is propelled less by the thrill of the erotic than by the pull of loves lost and selves seemingly left behind yet always with us.
Brownrigg considers motherhood, romance, identity, and the changes brought by time in this tender, insightful novel.