Superrich sybarites cope with secrets, “teenstrangers” and recalcitrant contractors.
Except for the relative wealth involved, the premise of Walker’s second novel will remind readers of her first (Four Wives, 2008): A quartet of wives comes together to plan an event. Rosalyn, spouse of affable billionaire Barlow, is gatekeeper to the suburban social nirvana known as Winchester, Conn. Rookie social climber Sara, who gave up investigative journalism for marriage to Wall Street wunderkind Nick, is secretly on the pill; she’s conflicted about having a second child. (Sara and Nick occupy a McMansion-in-progress, in thrall to a builder who is overbearing and way, way over budget.) Jacks fears, based on frequent forays into her husband David’s locked briefcase, that his hedge fund has gone bust after a disastrous Vegas hotel deal and that the Feds, and possibly Mafia loan sharks, are after him. Contentedly married Eva plays only a minor role as fixer and occasionally, for reasons that are never adequately explained, agent provocateur. (Aware of Jacks’ clandestine affair with Barlow, Eva engineers a coincidence that will redirect Rosalyn’s jealous suspicions to Sara.) The wives’ organizational juggernaut is deployed on behalf of Rosalyn’s 14-year-old daughter Caitlin, a freshman at tony Winchester Academy who was caught fellating the school’s hottie-in-chief, Kyle. Trying to save face, and battling demons from her own similar imbroglio decades before, Rosalyn spearheads a parents rally at which a prominent sexologist will warn that in the new teen mores relationships, commitment and responsibility are being replaced by the Friends with Benefits phenomenon. Caitlin, the “teenstranger” (her father’s exasperated term), is infatuated with Kyle, even as she senses she’s just a puppet in mean-girl Amanda’s preppy version of Dangerous Liaisons. An Internet chat room offers solace, but is Caitlin’s virtual friend just another manipulator?
Briskly paced, but the slight characterizations rely on overdone stereotypes of the überclasses.