Harry and Matty are the perfect couple. Harry is a bestselling author who has won a National Book award. Matty is the consummate wife—beautiful, a loving mother, faithful, and a gracious hostess. The couple lives in East Hampton, enjoying the good life of summer cottages, barbeque cookouts on the beach, and free flowing liquor. They have a young son, Johnny, who is curious and smart. In short, they are living and enjoying the easy life of the “rich enough”.
Into their lives wanders Claire, a young woman who is seeking to find her place in this glittering world. She is welcomed by each member of Matty and Harry’s social circle, though it becomes clear that she is really interested only in Harry. She sees him as the sophisticated man that can take her away from the callow young men that she has been chasing.
After some refusals on his part, Harry and Claire start an affair. What will the repercussions be? Who will suffer the most from this affair—Harry, Matty, or Claire? And who will still be standing when the dust clears?
The story is told from the point of view of Walter, a lawyer and long time friend to Matty. Walter is always present, but never really noticed. He has known and loved Matty all his life, but knows quite well that he is not the one for her. When Harry and Matty began dating, it was as though two stars came together, and Walter was in awe of their union. He settles for being in their orbit, godfather to their young son, and a stalwart friend. When the affair between Harry and Claire comes to light, Walter is there to pick up the pieces. Walter is never a narrator that I loved. He is a hanger-on—the friend that must be invited, even if he does not add to the party or make the conversation flow better. But as a narrator, his slightly stiff delivery works.
This is not a plot driven book. While there are events that occur, the primary event is the affair. However, the ability of Charles Dubow to let us into the thoughts of his characters is remarkable. The unfolding of the consequences of one bad decision and the crumbling of a once loyal love is heartbreaking to read, even if you knew that the downfall was inevitable.
This book was impossible to put down, and I read it quickly. Some plot twists were expected, but the writing was so compelling that I did not care. In the end, I felt as though I was at the summer cottage, drinking with the wealthy couples, and watching the devastation that happened when a selfish young woman met a weak, complacent man. I was not expecting to like this book much at all, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed every page. The sense of place, the peek into the lives of the rich and heedless, and the consequences of moral failure all figure prominently in this novel. Well written, entertaining, and highly recommended.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina