Author: Amy Hatvany
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Grace McAllister, a 36-year-old single woman whose idea of her future definitely didn't include children, meets and falls in love with Victor Hansen, a handsome divorced man who owns and runs a restaurant. But Victor is also father to 7-year-old Max and 13-year-old Ava, and for his sake, Grace becomes willing to be a part-time stepmother. The children live full time with their mother, so the arrangement promises to be tangle-free for her and Victor. All is well in Grace's world until one day when Kelli dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances, upsetting the fragile and complicated web of relationships between them.
The death comes just days after Kelli comes to know of Victor's engagement with Grace. Grace is immediately consumed by guilt as to whether it was the engagement that was responsible for her death.
The novel is written from the viewpoints of Grace, Ava and Kelli. Three feminine perspectives, relating to the one man and the web of relationships that they share with each other. Through the three accounts, one feels torn as the writing leads us on to sympathise with each viewpoint in turn.
We see life through the eyes of teenage Ava, who is but a child, yet forced, by family circumstances, to grow up and assume the responsibilities of an adult. We watch with admiration as she navigates the tricky landscape of life as a teenager coming of age while looking out for a mother who needs more looking after than she can provide. Forced to assume the role of a grownup while her dysfunctional mother gets used to her as a support system, Ava's account reveals her maturity.
Ava is fiercely loyal of her mother, even when she does things that cause others to laugh at her, and hopeful that the family that has disintegrated with her parents' divorce will reunite someday. It is a hope that she maintains even after her father's seriousness of intentions regarding Grace becomes known.
Grace, on the other hand, does not want the role of a mother, yet is forced to accept it when the role is thrust upon her.
Kelli's account is the one that the reader reads, hoping to find in it some of the anguish and the pain that led her to take the drastic step of taking her own life. The sections that spell out her rejection by acquaintances and her regret for what she has lost are beautiful. Kelli's account is in the third person, perhaps indicative of her restless, unstable state of mind.
The book brings you face to face with many aspects of womanhood, and reveals the strong and fierce network of girl friends and how women stand up for each other. All the three women have a best friend whose unstinting loyalty they can depend on, no questions asked. Grace runs Second Chances, an organisation that provides support, temporary housing and job placement assistance to battered woman.
Author Amy Hatvany has shown herself adept at understanding the mindsets of women at different age groups and portraying them effectively. The writing is beautiful. Through it all, Kelli, despite being flawed in her own way, earns our sympathy and regard. As does Grace, who seen from Kelli's eyes, is the Other Woman who had destroyed any hope of a reconciliation with her estranged husband.
The triumph of Hatvany's work is that she successfully shows that no one is bad. It is the choices that determine how we might view them.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley.