Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff
Finished on 4/14/13
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)
A bright June day. A split-second distraction. A family forever changed.
Life is good for Maura Corrigan. Married to her college sweetheart, Pete, raising three young kids with her parents nearby in her peaceful Chicago suburb, her world is secure. Then one day, in a single turn of fate, that entire world comes crashing down and everything that she thought she knew changes.
Maura must learn to move forward with the weight of grief and the crushing guilt of an unforgivable secret. Pete senses a gap growing between him and his wife but finds it easier to escape to the bar with his friends than face the flaws in his marriage.
Meanwhile, Maura's parents are dealing with the fault lines in their own marriage. Charismatic Roger, who at sixty-five, is still chasing the next business deal and Margaret, a pragmatic and proud homemaker, have been married for four decades, seemingly happily. But the truth is more complicated. Like Maura, Roger has secrets of his own and when his deceptions and weaknesses are exposed, Margaret's love and loyalty face the ultimate test.
Those We Love Most chronicles how these unforgettable characters confront their choices, examine their mistakes, fight for their most valuable relationships, and ultimately find their way back to each other. It takes us deep into the heart of what makes families and marriages tick and explores a fundamental question: when the ties that bind us to those we love are strained or broken, how do we pick up the pieces?
Deeply penetrating and brimming with emotional insight, this engrossing family drama heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.
I’ve had Lee and Bob (ABC NEWS anchor) Woodruff’s dual memoir, In An Instant, on my shelves for several years, but haven’t gotten around to reading it, in spite of strong initial interest. When Lee’s debut novel hit the shelves, I knew it was something I wanted to read, even before I read the publisher’s blurb on the back cover. Yes, I’m a sucker for attractive cover art.
I quickly became engrossed in the narrative: Woodruff’s smooth writing pulled me in from the opening pages, and I wound up reading late into the night on more than one occasion. However, I never felt fully invested in this family’s sad situation. I found myself comparing Woodruff’s story to that of Anna Quindlen’s, in her unforgettable novel, Every Last One. While Quindlen’s book had me sobbing as though I had a personal relationship with her characters, Woodruff had me feeling somewhat apathetic and blasé. This is not to say that Woodruff’s writing is poor or boring, but she wasn’t able to make me care about any of her characters. Maura, Pete and Roger never captured my heart or sympathies, and I felt as if they were constantly held at arms-length from the reader. I wanted to like June’s mother, Margaret, but I felt her characterization never rang true. Her behavior and general attitude about life is depicted like that of an older, pragmatic woman (or perhaps a woman living in the Fifties or Sixties) rather than one in her early 60’s. She is stoic in her grief and somewhat of an insecure prude with a mean, manipulative streak, when faced with her own demons.
Margaret thought about how you could spend your life trying to stay well, buckling your seat belt, eating organic food, wearing sunscreen, and then bad things could still rise up out of nowhere. Senseless things. She shook her head and pushed those thoughts away. She needed to make the marinade and get dressed for bridge.Surprisingly, this is the only passage I marked in this book of 300 pages. Even more surprising (at least to me) is that I never once shed a tear. I find myself wondering if I’ve become numb (or immune?) to stories of loss or if Woodruff misses the mark when it comes to relating the intricacies of grief. I guess I won’t know until I read another book about the death of a loved one.
Did I say I liked this book? ;) I really did, but it wasn’t as remarkable as I imagined it would be. Who knows. Maybe her memoir will knock my socks off.