Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sweet Ruin

As part of the MotherTalk booktour, today's review is of the novel Sweet Ruin, by Cathi Hanauer. This wasn't exactly a pleasant read for me. Much of the elements of the book annoyed me. The recipe seemed a bit trite:

One unhappy and emotionally spent suburban housewife mourning the loss of her infant son for over two years.

One work-a-holic lawyer husband who has lost track of his family from never being home.

One opinionated and oddball day care worker whose Sanctimommy behavior intimidates the housewife.

One out-of-touch grandfather with some serious issues still standing in the middle of the relationship with his daughter and granddaughter.

One hot young neighbor who falls instantly in love with our suburban housewife and threatens to tear her marriage to pieces.

As individual elements, we've seen them before, and we'll see them again. However, in Sweet Ruin, Hanauer weaves a web of intrigue, disloyalty, and dysfunctional behavior from all adults that makes these elements come together in a rather surprising manner. A marriage suffering from a lack of communication and the inability to overcome the grief of a lost child is the foundation from which this story is built. We have Elayna, the housewife that does not trust her ability to parent 5 year old Hazel, and is filled with doubt whenever she retrieves Elayna from Pansy, the day care provider with an agenda. Elyana is lonely and has retreated from her family and friends. She wants to bounce back into life again, but is feeling lost as to how to reach out.

One day while outside her front porch, she sees a fresh pile of dog poop and notices a young, attractive guy walking a dog across the street. She calls him over to clean up the poop, and thus begins her relationship with the mysterious Kevin. He lives directly across the street, he's very young and very sexy, and apparently has fallen madly in love with Elayna and Hazel from their very first meeting. Elayna feels the attraction herself, but tries to remain true to her marriage. But her husband is oblivious as he works on a big law case that takes him out of town for days.

Meanwhile, Elayna has been allowing her father to reenter her life, even though she distrusts him and isn't sure what his motivation is towards her and her daughter Hazel. When trouble inevitably occurs between her father and Hazel, Elayna retreats, but does not share with her husband what happened. This draws them even further apart. Just as their marriage is about to fall to pieces, Elayna realizes that she must communicate all that has been going on between her and Kevin, her father, Pansy the daycare worker to her husband. Elayna's challenges thrust her husband back into the game.

This look at suburban New Jersey life isn't pretty. And I'm not sure that it rings all that true. While I liked the book, something about it nagged at me. I felt as if it was about to turn off into a direction that I didn't like or support. I'm not a fan of fiction about affairs and adultery. I'm also not big on redemption and instant forgiveness. I think that it's easy in novels to have everyone kiss and make up at the ending, but in real life it just doesn't work that way. I get bothered when I read a simplistic ending to a novel fraught with anxiety and raw emotion. Which is why I can only recommend Sweet Ruin with reservations. It's well written, it's interesting, but it rings false to me.

Buy the book here from Amazon.
Check out Cathi's website.
Read an interview with Cathi Hanauer.

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Blogger JaniceNW said...

Having lost my third son 10 years ago, I find the entire premise stupid. 85% of marriages end in divorce w/in 5 years of losing a child. Infidelity cures nothing! Thanks for the heads-up, I will not be reading this book.

14/6/07 11:51 PM  

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