This book was selected by my book club. I’m not sure that it would have been one that I picked up on my own, but I enjoyed it. It’s an interesting exploration of how we connect and disconnect with the world around us and how relationships evolve over the years.
After their short marriage ended 30 years ago, David and Julie reconnect. Now both in their mid 50’s and experiencing a break up and a divorce respectively, they come together at Julie’s hodge podge old Victorian house in a small seaside village in Massachusetts. David, who runs a business helping high school students apply to college, is there to help Julie’s 17-year-old daughter figure out her future as much as he is trying to figure out his own. Having recently split with his boyfriend, David finds himself self medicating with food and about to lose the carriage house that he rents in San Francisco for far below market rates. Julie, also about to lose the roof over her head if she can’t come up with enough money to buy her husband out, is juggling an increasingly distant teenaged daughter, the pressure of a financially over extended ex-husband, a wide assortment of Airbnb guests and a wee bit of a pot smoking problem.
Smarting from their wounds, David and Julie quickly fall into the comfort of mutual affection and familiarity. Their new non sexual attachment is an interesting one, and McCauley does a good job of exploring their unique relationship. David, Julie and Julie’s daughter, Mandy, are complex characters who, while not always self-aware, are struggling to be which makes them very relatable and likable. The other cast of characters in the book are basically just foils for this which is one of the problems that I have with the book. Every other character is part of a selfish and money hungry horde. Virtually indistinguishable from each other, they seem to exist just to throw up roadblocks and rub salt into the wounds of the main characters.
My biggest complaint, however, was that Julie and Mandy were always at the mercy of the male characters in the story. Doing little to actively save herself, Julie pretty much smoked pot and worried while her ex-husbands either tried to take advantage of her, kept personal information from her “for her own good”, or made unilateral decisions about her life. Mandy has a similar trajectory with her father pressuring her about her future and an older local man preying on her insecurities. Even though McCauley went to great pains to illustrate that Julie and her daughter Mandy were interesting and smart women, he essentially rendered them helpless in the face of adversity. Both shut down and wait for the man on the white horse to swoop in. Ugh. For that, I would give it 2 1/2 stars, but it was really very well written and interesting otherwise, so I give it a 3 with reservations.