The 30-year bond between a quartet of close friends—two couples—comes unglued when one of them dies unexpectedly in Hadley’s (The Past, 2016, etc.) quietly riveting latest.
Christine and Alex and Lydia and Zachary have been close since their early 20s; now in their 50s, they’re still close, the friendships among them still anchoring their lives. And then one night, Christine and Alex are listening to music when the telephone rings. It’s Lydia, from the hospital. Zachary is dead. He was fine, at his office at the gallery, talking about the next show, and then he wasn’t. Then he keeled over and was dead. For all the years they’ve known each other, Zachary has been a gentle force of nature. “Of all of us,” Christine thinks, “he’s the one we couldn’t afford to lose.” In the immediate aftermath of his death, the families band together: Alex goes to collect Lydia and Zachary’s daughter from college; Lydia comes to live, for a while, with her best friends. The women have been close since childhood, Lydia theatrical and romantic and borderline frivolous; Christine serious and artistic, the practical one of the pair. Shortly after university, the women met Alex and Zachary, also childhood friends. In the early days, it was Lydia who was in love with Alex, although he was unhappily married to somebody else. Zachary was well-matched with Christine. The partnerships evolved without animosity: Zachary married Lydia, in the end. Alex married Christine. For three decades, they remained close, the history between them no threat to the happy present. But after Zachary’s death, their pleasant equilibrium is thrown forever off-kilter, as remnants from the past bubble up to the surface. A four-person character study—here as always, Hadley is a master of interpersonal dynamics—the novel captures the complexity of loss. Their grief is not only for Zachary; it is for the lives they thought they knew.
Restrained and tender.