Only two years into her marriage, former New York corporate lawyer Emilia Greenleaf faces a number of debilitating challenges: the death of her day-old infant daughter, the dissolution of her parents' marriage, the ongoing hostility of her husband's ex-wife and 5-year-old son. Emilia has to fight off her deep depression and her own preconceived prejudices, come to terms with her marriage, and figure out how and why she got herself into a place she would never have imagined. Much of the book is set in and around Central Park, and so should be of interest to anyone who has lived in New York or is interested in geographical history.
Before I go on to review this book, I have to make two unequivocal statements: 1) I couldn't put it down, 2) I got very emotionally tied to the narrator and immediately sent the book along to one of my friends to read. So although I'm now going to say a slew of negative things about why I think this book needed more work before it went to press, I will still recommend it as a "good read" and I am very glad I read it. Let not anything I'm about to say discolor that.
Moving on. Certain aspects of this book drove me absolutely crazy. Most obviously, the epiphanic ending--this was sloppily done, in my opinion, and rather unnatural. Plot-wise, the ending is perfect; execution-wise, there was something to be desired.
Secondly, I don't care how precocious 5-year-old William is supposed to be--I couldn't buy his 5-year-old character at all. If she had toned back the content just a little this would have been fine, but she let it run away and it really compromises the reality of the whole story.
Third, I found the main character fundamentally unlikeable at the beginning, and I wish that Waldman had pursued the more difficult angle--that is, the adulterous relationship that ended up in the narrator's marriage to an older (previously married) man--instead of writing it off with the quick and, I felt, too easy brush stroke she uses.
All that said--and all these pieces, I frustratingly feel, could have been gracefully edited out with just a little fine-tuning--Waldman makes some heart-strung and very coherent points about the myths, realities, and complexities of love. The plot is a very well constructed play-out of a realistic but endlessly compelling set of human relationships. You get the feeling that these are flawed but well-meaning people, who are basically doing things you hope you wouldn't do in a similar circumstance, but you can see how it's all within the realm of possibility. My overall verdict is do read it; it is quick, absorbing, and enriching.
Alas, there were passages I wanted to quote here, but now I realize I gave my copy away yesterday. Stupid, stupid. But she does have some quotables.