An Awful Father, a Worse Brother, and a Married Lover: What’s a Woman to Do?
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Ken and Abby are the adult children of almost 70-year-old Adam Gardner. Together, the three have weathered a tragic past: Adam raised the kids on his own when his wife died shortly after Abby’s birth, when Ken was a small child. They are a close-knit family in many ways, though each of the “kids” has issues with their dad and they also have issues with each other. Indeed, there is something that happened between Ken and Abby in their childhood or adolescence that upended their relationship. It is hinted at so broadly, it is easy to figure out. But read along to learn of the bigger “mystery” that intrigued me in this book.
To tell you about the cast of characters, all three are respected professionals.
- Adam is a brilliant oceanographer.
- Ken is a highly successful businessman with political ambitions.
- Abby is a talented visual artist about to get her big break in the art world.
But there is also a less admirable side to each of them:
- Adam has bipolar disorder and has decided to go off his meds so he can use the impending mania to come up with his next – and probably last – big scientific discovery. (We also learn he has gone off his meds in the past to the detriment of his children.)
- Ken is an enraged individual waiting to explode. He is in therapy for what seems to be a sex addiction and for marital problems.
- Abby is having an affair with a married man.
In alternating chapters, these characters speak to us to advance the story. We also hear from Ken’s wife, Jenny. She was Abby’s friend before she was Ken’s wife, but something has gone wrong between the two women. There is also someone named Stephanie who narrates some of the chapters. As we will see, all of these people have secrets that will impact the group.
The book opens in April of 2016 and moves towards a crescendo at Adam’s big birthday in August. The epilogue of sorts takes place in October of that year. This puts the book squarely in the middle of the 2016 election cycle when it looked like a woman was going to become President of the United States. Thus, female empowerment is a core issue here.
This brings me to the main mystery of the book as I perceived it: The three men in Abby’s life – the dad, the brother, and the married lover – all treated her miserably! Why wasn’t Abby the one who was enraged and waiting to explode? Happily, Adrienne Brodeur finds a fitting way for Abby to make her case against the men in her own quietly explosive style.
I am now hankering for a sequel to the book because I want to watch Abby become increasingly empowered and I want to know more about her artwork!
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