By Elizabeth Brundage
Published April 2009 by Penguin Group
Nate and Cat, heroin addicts and drifters, realize they can't care for their infant daughter, Willa, and drive across the country to deliver her to Joe and Candace Golding.
Seventeen years later, Nate returns, all cleaned up and working at the prestigious Pioneer School. Claire has also just returned to the area with her son, Teddy. Claire, an artist, is returning because her father has passed away, leaving her his home and land.
At the Pioneer School, Jack Heath is the head master who has turned the school into one of the best private schools in the area. Maggie, his wife and an instructor at the school, is barely managing to hold things together as she tries to hold on to her husband while struggling to keep keep their disastrous history a secret.
On the surface, everything looks just the way the wealthy residents of the Berkshires want it to; but under the surface lie all kinds of secrets: prostitution, drugs, infidelity, gambling and dog fights. When the worlds start to collide, secrets pour out and lives are in danger.
I've been putting this one off for a few days, trying to decide what to say about this one. On the one hand, I really liked Brundage's use of mirror characters throughout the book. Willa is a mirror of the young prostitute, Pearl. Nate is the mirror of Joe. On the other hand, the book seemed too crowded with characters and took so long to set everything up. I felt like many of the characters were really well developed but then there were others that felt very much stereotypes. I appreciated the idea of delving under the surface and exploring the idea that everyone has secrets they want to keep hidden. I just didn't think it was necessary for all of the secrets to be so awful.
Brundage certainly was able to build suspense once the novel really got going but it felt, in the end, a bit too tidy and neatly wrapped up. And (and I know I'm nitpicking here but it really bothered me) midway through the book, there is what appears to be one of the most glaring errors I've ever found in a book. A character that's supposed to have thrown herself into the Jewish faith is suddenly wearing a crucifix and talking passionately about Jesus. Perhaps it was done intentionally but I was never able to figure out why it would have been. After that, I read on looking for other incongruities which detracted from my enjoyment of the story.
My face to face book club read this book for October and opinions on it were mixed. Some people really liked it, others were lukewarm. But we did have a really wonderful talk with Elizabeth Brundage. She was eager to not only discuss her work but to get to know us. We try to talk to authors about every other month and this really one of the most successful calls we've had. Brundage is also the author of "The Doctor's Wife" and has another book coming out in 2010.
There are some very graphic depictions of animal cruelty and sexual acts in this book.