To understand and look inside the things that weave a marriage together is often a difficult task. From the outside, appearances might look wonderful, but as they always say, looks can be deceiving and so as Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney looks into two marriages in this contemporary story, we see that old adage in play, detailing lives that lead them on an entirely different path than the one they seemed to have been on.
Flora, happily married to Julian for 20 years, is lucky. She’s watched other marriages disintegrate but her marriage is strong and stable. Sure they’ve had challenges and ups and downs, but it only made them stronger. You never know what truly goes on behind closed doors, but Flora knew what went on behind HER door.
Until she finds Julian’s wedding ring hidden away in a file cabinet (not a spoiler, the book opens here). The ring he claimed to have lost years ago. What had truly happened all those years ago? Suddenly, everything she thought she knew about her life and marriage is in question.
From here we go back in time and explore how Flora and Julian met, their careers, the theater life, parenting their daughter, and the close friendship Flora has with Margot. Margot, unlike Flora, has wealth and privilege that complicated the dynamics of their friendship, but they remain best friends.
Margot has challenges of her own, an incident which left her husband David so very different than the man she had married.
“It was stupid, she now understood, to think that privilege translated to protection. To mistake privilege for grace.”
I loved how this novel explores the ups and downs of marriage and friendship. Life is messy, and never goes as planned. Bad things happen. How do we move forward when life as you thought you knew it is turned upside down? When there’s a betrayal from those you trusted most? Do you forgive? Are some things unforgivable?
“forgiveness is a choice. It doesn’t arrive on fairy wings; it doesn’t descend from the sky for you to take or leave. Forgiveness is an action.”
If this sounds like the same old plot you’ve read many times, I assure you it isn’t. From the synopsis, if you think you know what happened with the wedding ring, you are wrong. The truth is more complicated.
It required a bit of patience in the beginning but by the 30-50% mark, the story is riveting. The author writes beautifully with depth and nuance. She gets people, their inner lives, and what makes them tick. It’s a book that makes one think, a book that begs to be discussed. The kind of book I love most.
A picture truly is worth a thousand words. Picture a photo of the same people, taken years apart. The same people, yet not the same. They’ve been broken, damaged, and evolved. How they navigate the in-between years was a thoughtful exploration of complicated lives. One to ponder.
This made a terrific buddy read, as it’s one with a lot of issues and themes to discuss. It’s one both Marialyce and I enjoyed and recommend.
- I received a free digital copy from NetGalley and Edelweiss.
- publication date 4/6/21 by Ecco
A secret can be held because when it is revealed, it will bring about a wonderfully surprising element into one’s life. A secret can also be devastating to the people who hold it, bringing about disaster for relationships that have been on solid footing for many years.
Flora has been married to Julian for many years, and she believes, even though they have struggled to maintain an acting career in upstate NY and live in Manhattan they have had a good life. It was secure, happy and one where their big break seemed to come when they relocated to Los Angeles. There they were able to reconnect with Flora’s best friend Margot and her doctor husband, David. The contrast in the two couples’s life style is massive. Margot and David don’t struggle at all, for they are wealthy, accomplished, and certainly quite the opposite to Flora and Justin. Margot has become a highly successful actress while Flora stays at home and becomes a helpmate to the wishes and desires of Justin who longs for a successful drama career. There are lessons in contrasts, and yet, they don’t let jealousy stand in the way of “eternal” friendship. All seems well until Flora makes a discovery, stumbles on a secret she was never destined to know, and the wonderful relationships between husband and wife and best friend to best friend falls apart.
There is much going on in this story as there is always much going on in life. Flora and Julian have a child, Margot and David are childless by choice. The couples are separated because of their successes or lack of. There is a huge wealth factor that widens the contrast, yet even though these things exist, the couples remain friends, as Margot and David act as surrogate aunt and uncle to Flora and Justin’s child. However, when the wedding ring that Justin claimed he lost while swimming in the lake, turns up as Flora is looking for something else, questions arrive, lies are told, and a reevaluation of their lives is upon the four characters.
Forgiveness comes in many forms and yet does the hurt ever go away? Can what was once solid and dependable be rebuilt? Does forgiveness allow one to deny betrayal?
This book was well written as the characters were well defined. We were allowed to see them as empathetic creatures, while also witnessing the realities of marriage, devotion, and what makes for a lasting relationships. The one concern both Jan and I had was the slowness at the start. We kept on questioning ourselves, “Is there a story here?” Then, at about the midway point, the story evolved into one that made the reader think that question we often ask ourselves, “What would I do?”
If you enjoy family dramas, ones that delve into the question that arise in relationships, you might enjoy this story. Jan and I enjoyed this story and realized that often one needs to be patient in finding the true value of a story.
Thank you to Edelweiss for a copy of this newly published book. Thank you also, to Ms Sweeney and Ecco Books!
and here’s the author
Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney is the New York Times bestselling author of The Nest, which has been translated into more than 25 languages and optioned for film by Amazon Studios with Sweeney writing the adaptation. She has an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children.