I’m a long-time fan of both Ephrons, Nora and Delia…and I had heard (read, actually) good things about this book: good summer read, revelatory about marriage, secrets, deceit, etc. So I had pretty high expectations as I dove in o his one.
And it really is a great story, told from alternative POVs by four adults who travel together to Italy (including the place where all hell breaks loose, Siracusa) one summer. You know right from the beginning that something has gone horribly wrong on the trip, but it takes awhile to get there, and I kept wondering what the disaster was, and who was involved. The two couples, both married, are Michael and Lizzie from New York and Finn and Taylor from Portland, Maine. Two other characters who figure in to the events in Siracusa are Finn and Taylor’s 10-year-old daughter Snow, and Michael’s mistress Kath who shows up unexpectedly. Ephron does a great job presenting the alternating chapters following the same events from the varying perspectives, and her wit and insightful observations are great fun.
Michael (the man with the mistress) is a writer whose play won a Pulitzer 15 years ago, and who seems to have been trying to recapture some success ever since (he is now 37). He’s kind of a pig, and truly a liar, and apparently a real charmer because both Lizzie and Taylor think he is amazing…and then Snow falls under his spell as well (OK, a bit creepy for sure). Lizzie is also a writer who has not had much success, but the two of them are firmly entrenched in the Manhattan literary scene (which Ephron delights in skewering here and there). Michael has told Kath that he will be leaving Lizzie to be with her, and Kath believes him, so she breaks into his computer, steals his passwords and uses his miles to fly to Italy to surprise him. She is a hostess at a restaurant Michael and Lizzie frequent and, like very other female in the book, has fallen under his spell, believing every word.
Finn owns a restaurant and has a thing for a lobsterwoman back in Maine, although his real desire is for Lizzie, ever since they had a fling some years back. Taylor is basically an icy bitch whose world revolves around Snow, her beautiful daughter who suffers from “extreme shyness syndrome.” Taylor is a pretentious snob and – well, I just couldn’t find anything to like about her.
The two couples interact during various meals and outings and it gets clearer each day that Taylor and Lizzie can’t stand each other, and Finn isn’t fond of Michael, calling him out on his lies (including, finally, his affair). Tension builds as the seemingly inevitable volcanic eruption that will occur when Lizzie realizes who Kath is and why she is there…but then one afternoon, Kath and Snow disappear. The resolution to what happens after that is one of those things I can’t even hint at without ruining something, so just leave it at this: it’s a breezy read, but has a lot of thought-provoking commentary on marriage, honesty, parenting, and secrecy. I am not sure “like” is the right word to use for how I feel about it, but I do recommend it.
Thanks to NetGalley and Blue Rider Press for offering a free copy in exchange for my honest review. Unfortunately, the digital file was unreadable and, while I got a polite response to an email requesting a new file, I never got it…disappointing, but I don’t mind buying a book that entertains me as much as this one did. Four stars.