Aviva Grossman is a young woman interning for a congressman when they begin an affair. He’s almost as old as her parents and married. It’s the early days of the internet and she keeps an anonymous blog about it, with seemingly few readers. But after an incident brings to light the possibility of their relationship the blog is found and Aviva is torn apart by the media. The congressman, of course, comes out relatively unscathed. Unable to find work after becoming horrendously Google-able, Aviva changes her name and moves to a small town, starting over. She has a daughter, Ruby, and starts her own business in event planning. Years later, she decides to run for mayor. And her secret is revealed.
The book is told through various points of view. There’s Aviva’s mother, Rachel, who first describes her daughter’s scandal, while also navigating treacherous dating waters; then there’s Jane Young, planning a wedding for a mismatched couple; next is Ruby, through emails to her pen pal, as she discovers her mother’s past; Embeth, the congressman’s wife; and finally Aviva, writing a sort of choose-your-own adventure, back when the affair was taking place and through to her present day running for mayor.
I adored Gabriell Zevin’s book, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and was eager to read this and be just as charmed. But oh, I really did not enjoy this. I almost gave up in the beginning and I’m not sure what kept me going. I get irritated by blurbs that sell you a book as one thing but then don’t introduce you to your supposed main character straight away. Here we have Aviva’s story, but the first person we meet is her mother, and her dating life, and a disintegrating friendship. It felt like I was being held at arm’s length, and this continues throughout the book, as we dip in and out of other people’s stories and how they connect to Aviva/Jane’s life. The whole thing felt very flippant when it also feels like it’s trying to say something about slut-shaming and politics. But everyone in it is awful, mostly, so I found it difficult to care. Aviva never felt like she behaved in a way that was understandable to me. She’s in her early twenties when she has the affair but acts much younger. And Ruby is the most precocious child you’ll ever meet, and not necessarily in a good way. I quite liked Embeth but she had an annoying phantom parrot to contend with (don’t ask) which again made everything skew silly rather than touching or sympathetic which, given Embeth’s circumstances, is what the book is probably aiming for.
I don’t know. Everyone’s behaviour made me feel depressed and desperate for someone to root for. I don’t know if this is a standalone book or if there’s going to be a follow up since there are several threads that are left hanging. I don’t hugely need to see them tied up though.