In Nora Hammondís dreamscape, her marriage is successful, her teenaged child well-adjusted, and employment at the family-owned newspaper fulfilling. A frightening incident that happened when she was seventeen and vulnerable to the questionable charms of an older boyfriend has been relegated to the territory of nightmare. By all accounts, her small-town New England life is good.
But when an abject, guilt-riddled Ken Hammond confesses to a four-year relationship with Noraís best friend, Robin, Hammond realizes she has been living a lie, the small fissures in her marriage looming large in retrospect. Hurt and angry, Nora sees betrayal everywhere - in the eyes of understanding friends, in the snide remarks of her social set.
Nora has unwittingly joined an embarrassing group - the betrayed wives club. Naturally, a period of adjustment is required, the five stages of grief yet to be tackled. Trapped in the vortex of her confusion, Nora is slow to acknowledge the repercussions of the affair on her children, especially her son, who has been carrying the fate of his fatherís infidelity for some time.
Retracing the last four years, Nora cannot believe the extent of her naivetť, her oblivious acceptance of the many excuses her husband has made for his absences from home. Blinded by her anguish, Nora is barely able to function, ignoring all but the reality of Kenís infidelity.
Not to worry. The reader will experience every facet of Noraís emotional journey, her most intimate pain, anger and frustration, as well as her decision to keep the marriage intact for the sake of the children. The return of that boyfriend from the past - and the implications of their final violent night together - adds yet another layer of chaos to an already out-of-control existence. Reeling from her emotional wounds, Nora cannot fathom why Eddie Hawkins has reappeared or what he wants from her (the reader is at some disadvantage in figuring this out as well).
This is a tale of dysfunction writ large. The protagonistís victim mentality literally paralyzes her with indecision, Eddieís reappearance exacerbating her already fragile state. Carrying the weight, and dread, of her past mistakes, Nora falls into the role without much resistance, a deer caught in the headlights when the world turns sour, the past threatens, and infidelity looms.
Save Noraís son, it is difficult to find a likeable character in this novel, or to empathize with a pampered woman who learns her marriage is a sham. The juxtaposition of present and past is jarring, a plot device that pushes a tragedy into the realm of the absurd.