The anxieties of four suburban mothers surface as they plan a benefit for underprivileged women.
Janie, who never misses a Pilates class and can drink any number of vanilla lattes with caloric impunity, is the envy of her three girlfriends—Love, Gayle and Marie—all residents of upscale Hunting Ridge, Conn. But she’s desperately staving off middle age with surgery, not to mention a clandestine, motel-room affair. Meanwhile, Love, married to an ER doctor, has just received an unsettling letter from her estranged father that threatens to re-open a traumatic episode that halted her halcyon years as a child genius. Gayle, heiress to New England old money, is increasingly intimidated by her lawyer husband, Troy, who resents his financial dependence on her. Marie gave up a lucrative New York legal career for motherhood and a less demanding private practice in family law. The four friends are co-hosting a gala to take place at Gayle’s estate, proceeds to go to a women’s clinic. Gayle’s carefully orchestrated, pharmaceutically assisted life veers off course when she realizes Troy is bullying their young son, Oliver. When her cook, sensitive artist Paul, intervenes, Troy fires Paul. Love is suffering from debilitating back pain, and her mother, aging Hollywood actress Yvonne, convinces Love that her pain is the outward manifestation of suppressed emotions that will only be released by a confrontation with her father. Marie, for her part, is battling a powerful attraction to her law clerk, Randy. She’s handling a divorce case that explodes when she uncovers the secret behind the accidental death of her client’s toddler. The suspense here is largely dependent on withholding information from the reader. The identity of Janie’s lover could be revealed much earlier, as could the exact nature of Love’s childhood trauma, without detracting from the best feature of this novel: the characters’ ability to spellbind even as they whine about unhelpful, demanding, clueless husbands or otherwise appear to wallow in victimhood.
Walker’s debut displays a depth of characterization that almost transcends the shopworn premise.