In this debut novel, a Brooklyn teacher and mom must find her inner strength after an ugly divorce, despite the growing threat of terrorist attacks against the French school where she works.
Tess Shapiro is a teacher at a school for French expatriates in Brooklyn’s hip Carroll Gardens neighborhood, the mother of two young children and a recent divorcée who is still struggling to navigate the messy aftermath of her failed marriage. Her ex-husband, Patrick, was an emotionless sociopath who cheated on Tess with numerous women, including prostitutes, and showed no remorse. Tess is glad to be rid of him, but it’s hard for her to heal from the hurt he caused. The only distraction she has from her problems is the comics she draws starring her glamorous spy alter ego, Andrea Chambers. But Tess begins to finally move on once she meets Guy, the sexy father of one of her students, who has moved to New York from Paris for only a year while he works for a game development company. Their feverishly romantic fling is a welcome distraction for Tess, especially when a neo-Nazi terrorist group known as NAFKA starts attacking French cultural centers around the world, and anti-French graffiti starts popping up at school. But tragedy brings Patrick’s presence back onto the center stage of Tess’ life, just as she starts to wonder whether Guy may not be what he seems. Egal has created a heartbreakingly relatable character in Tess, a woman who is smart in so many ways but naïve in so many others. Readers should certainly empathize with her battles to find herself amid the smoldering wreck of her marriage. Indeed, Tess’ struggle to deal with the fallout of her relationship with Patrick—not to mention her burgeoning feelings for Guy—creates enough drama on a personal level that the international intrigue of the NAFKA attacks feels unnecessary and oddly forced. The plot takes a weird turn that readers probably won’t expect, one that is welcome but awkward in execution.
An intense story of one woman’s journey of self-discovery.