A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
It’s a cliché for a reader to say they wish a book wouldn’t end, but sometimes cliches are true, as in this case with this novel. Most of the characters were appealing and it felt like friends had moved away when I finished the book.
The story takes place over a year’s time, in an unnamed suburb of Philadelphia. Chapters rotate between the characters, each having a specific voice in the third person, except for the centerpiece, Cordelia, an affectionate iconoclast and down-to-earth intellectual. She has the perfect marriage to handsome doctor Teo, an outgrowth of their childhood friendship. She becomes friends with newcomer, Lake, an unconventional, self-possessed mother of a genius teenaged son, Dev. There is also upper class neighbor, Piper, a rigid, judgmental woman who is hard to like.
Their interlocking relationships, real life experiences and the pain and joy of everyday life is explored in this vibrant novel. That is not to say that everything ends “happily ever after”, as there is loss through death and divorce. Both the reader and the characters question what comprises a family, friendship and marriage. And the layer underneath is explored, where peoples’ real feelings lay. But though there are secrets and surprises, the drama never goes into soap opera territory, thankfully. Part of that is also due to the subtle humor woven through the dialogue and observations.
The author, a published poet, has a dab hand with metaphors, describing a face with a “sheen of anger” and my favorite, the “miniature stained-glass window wings” of a dragonfly. There are outward references to the poems of Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson and hidden ones to the stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Those were only some of the hidden gems in this sometimes humorous, always sparkling second novel. I hope there are many more to come.
William Morrow 2008 400 pp. ISBN-13:978-0061240270