Sunday, October 18, 2015


When a novel centers around the drowning of a 12-year-old girl, I expect the tone of the novel to be pretty serious.  However, the writing has more of a folksy, lighthearted tone that somehow doesn’t feel right.  And it’s not because it’s Southern, because there are plenty of serious Southern writers.  Not that I have a problem with injecting a little humor into a story whose focus is a tragedy, but I just don’t think it works here.  Laurel is a suburban mom near Pensacola whose loving husband David communes with his computer all day for his job as a software developer.  Their daughter Shelby was a good friend of Molly’s and may know more than she’s saying about Molly’s death.  After the police grill Shelby, Laurel takes matters into her own hands—not by quizzing Shelby but by bringing in her volatile sister Thalia to help investigate the neighbors.  Standing by but watching all the goings-on is Bet Clemmons, who is staying with Laurel and her family for a few weeks, as a respite from her impoverished life with a meth-addicted mother.  Thalia’s presence and Molly’s death motivate Laurel to reevaluate the death of her uncle Marty, whose ghost she sees from time to time.  In fact, Molly’s ghost is the intruder who alerts Laurel to the fact that her body is face down in the pool.  When Laurel has a drunken meltdown and smashes everything in sight, I wasn’t sure if this temper tantrum was out of character or just a long overdue eruption.  Laurel is a quilt artist, perfectly content with her quiet life, but Thalia starts planting seeds of doubt in Laurel’s mind about David’s fidelity, mostly because she feels that Laurel would be happier with a more eventful life.  Thalia is an actress, happily married to a gay man, so that both she and her husband can enjoy guilt-free extramarital flings.  I would definitely choose Laurel’s quaint family life over Thalia’s eccentric one, but each to his own.

No comments: