Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Susan Shreve, Not Anita

I've read so much about Susan Shreve but just hadn't had the opportunity to sit down with one of her books until I downloaded her latest, You are the Love of my Life. Though it didn't disappoint, I sure had to hold my temper through most of my listening. I could NOT believe that Ms. Shreve would create a character who was so independent on the one hand and so mealy mouthed on the other!

Lucy Painter, appropriately named as she's a children's book illustrator/writer, has the chutzpah to be a single mother of two children. This takes particular courage back in the early '70's but in an anonymous city like New York, who knew or cared?

She takes nothing in the way of money or emotional support from "uncle Reuben," who happens to be her considerably older and very married editor, and the father of Maggie and Felix. The only thing they seem to have in common is great sex. OK, I get that, but no matter how much they swoon when together, I just wanted to scream every time this weak, unsavory man ensnared Lucy further into his web with the oldest of lines, "you are the love of my life." I wanted to say to Lucy, "come ON!"

The good news is that Lucy, in a sign of new-found maturity, decides to leave New York and return to her childhood home, one she inherited but never inhabited, in Washington, DC. And here, in the shadow of the Watergate hearings, a very public cover up, we learn that Lucy has been hiding her own very private secrets, managing to construct a wall around herself that not even her children, let alone a man, could penetrate.

The novel's core theme is that of loneliness. Shreve has obviously given much thought to the damage we inflict on ourselves and others when we hold on to past hurts whether through fear or shame. Any sidewalk psychiatrist will tell you that you've got to let it go. It seems so simple when observing from the outside but when one is tangled in the exhausting web of lies, well, not so simple,

Ironically, the more Lucy tended to stay to herself, to avoid the pathologically sociable neighborhood moms, the more they needed to understand what she was hiding. For the uber-social and very lonely 12 year old Maggie, her mother's refusal to entertain, to sit on the front porch with coffee in the morning and wine in the evening, was the perfect catalyst for another woman to step into the void.

Though I was impatient with many of the characters in this novel for their indecisiveness and inability to take control, I found it relatively enjoyable as I finished up my walk this morning along the bay. I would like for some of you to read it so we could discuss. I'm still anxiously waiting for a knock out novel of 2013. Book Expo here I come!

1 comment:

TooManyBooks said...

I am SO ready! Can't wait to see the retired Sally B.