Harriet is a forty-something year old television chef on a show called Healthy Harriet. She has been married to Jules, a photographer always gone on movie shoots, for a long time and their twin sons have just left for college, leaving Harriet and Jules with an empty nest and a suddenly unobstructed view of their marriage. And the diagnosis isn't all that promising, what with a very unequal power structure and Harriet's disconcerting habit of screaming with pent up frustration in the shower. When Harriet meets a beautiful, British, twenty-something woman at yoga who reminds her very much of her younger self, she introduces Lydia to Jules, invites her to move in with them into one twin's empty room, and watches the show unfold.
Harriet narrates the novel from the present but looking back at the past several months. Because of this position of hindsight, she (and the reader) already know the outcome of Lydia's arrival into Harriet and Jules' life. The perspective allows Harriet to make connections and offer illuminating commentary that, as she acknowledges, she might not have made at the time, at least not consciously. As Harriet discusses her emotionally absent, self-absorbed, and selfish husband, the reader wonders why she lived so long with her head in the sand and how she could be so tolerant of such an ass. She admits that he can be charming and appealing but aside from her telling this to the reader, there's no such evidence in the actual drawing of his character; all of his traits are quite negative and Peter Pan-like. Likewise, the immediate draw to Lydia for both Harriet and Jules (and their pets but not their housekeeper) is a mystery.
While most of the sympathy from the reader will definitely be directed towards Harriet, there's also a frustration with her continued naivete and laissez-faire attitude as she aids and abets the situation. The only thing that eases the frustration any is Harriet's consideration that her decisions might have been unconsciously deliberate as she looks back on it from the present. Harriet is introspective as she contemplates her role in all of this and the view of marriage here is honest and real but it was missing that tiny leavening bit of humor that, for me, would have made it a more fulfilling read. An interesting look at reinvention, desires for the future, and marriage as it enters a new stage, this didn't quite hit the mark although I did appreciate the perfectly pitched ending.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review.