Two men meet briefly in a hospital, where both are visiting their dying fathers. They speak again just a few months later, when one of them impulsively calls the other, a psychologist, and a friendship of sorts starts to form. After the psychologist leaves his wife a few weeks later, she begins to fall in love with his friend, creating a triangle that threatens to destroy all three and their families. The wife must decide between two very different men, whom she loves in very different ways. As the focus of the novel turns toward the woman in the middle, it becomes increasingly clear that whomever she chooses, the effect on the lives of everyone involved will be immeasurable. Regret, fear, grief, anger, anxiety, wistfulness, and yearning - these people's lives hang tenuously in the balance of their own conflicting emotions. With remarkable grace and acuity, Antonya Nelson examines two families in the midst of uncertainty and self-doubt, in a moving, resonant novel that displays the ful
Fans of Nelson's three short-story collections (one of which, The Expendables, won the Flannery O'Connor Award for short fiction) will not be disappointed in her first novel, a provocative portrayal of the psychology of domestic crisis. This is the story of a bizarre and compelling friendship between Evan Cole, a clinical psychologist with a somewhat dysfunctional family, and Paddy Limbach, a roofer who has no idea how to keep a roof over his family's heads. Their attachment begins when both their fathers die within moments of each other at the same hospital. Theirs is an attraction of opposites: invited to Evan and Rachel's house for dinner, Paddy and Didi bring wine coolers, which hardly go with the gamehens Rachel has made. Indeed, Nelson pits all of her superbly realized characters in opposition to one another, generating great tension between friends, husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters. Envy, adultery and forgiveness figure in the plot, but the telling is never relentless or overbearing. Nelson's fine wit illuminates the comic within the tragic as she paints a stunningly nuanced portrait of the complexities and paradoxes of domestic life. (May)
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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
February 01, 1998
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