The Affairby Colette Freedman
After eighteen years of marriage, Kathy Walker has settled into a pattern of comfortable routines--ferrying her two teenagers between soccer practice and piano lessons, running a film production business with her husband, Robert, and taking care of the beautiful Boston home they share. Then one day, Kathy discovers a suspicious number on her husband's phone. Six years before, Kathy accused Robert of infidelity--a charge he vehemently denied--and almost destroyed their marriage in the process.
Now Kathy must decide whether to follow her suspicions at the risk of losing everything, or trust the man with whom she's entwined her past, present, and future. As she grapples with that choice, she is confronted with surprising truths not just about her relationship, but about her friends, family, and her own motivations.
Skillfully crafted and deeply insightful, The Affair sensitively explores the complexities of love and the challenge of ever knowing another person fully, even as we endeavor to understand our own deepest longings.
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By Colette Freedman
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2013 Colette Freedman
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThursday, 19th December
Kathy Walker nibbled on a chocolate-glazed Dunkin' Donut as she signed the Christmas card with a flourish.
Love from Robert, Kathy, Brendan, and Theresa.
She turned the card over, pushed it into the red envelope, licked the flap with two quick movements, making a face at the taste of the gum, then picked up her pen.
What was the address? She looked up from the pile of envelopes and frowned; 21 something—Hammond, or was it something—Hawley Street?
Kathy stepped away from the kitchen table and pressed her hands into the small of her back, working her neck from side to side, hearing muscles pop alarmingly. She had been writing cards for nearly two hours and was exhausted. These were her "Perfunctory" cards, polite-and-expected-and-completely-meaningless cards. It was a chore she hated, one she always left until the last minute—and she was now stiff and sore and just a little irritated. She looked at the doughnut in her hand; the sugar high wasn't helping. Kathy took another bite and sighed. It was the same every year; she wrote all of the cards, and she signed for both of them, naturally putting his name first—Love from Robert, Kathy ... Why was she conditioned to put his name first? Probably because the majority of the cards were going out to Robert's business associates.
Next year would be different, she promised grimly, hunting for her address book. Then she smiled, and for an instant looked younger—much younger than her forty-three years—remembering that she'd made the same vow last year. And probably the year before that too.
Kathy found her address book under a pile of last year's unused cards. For the last couple of years, she'd ordered Christmas cards from one of the online card shops in boxes of forty—cheesy pictures of her family dressed in Santa hats posing awkwardly around the trimmed tree—and each year she left three or four unused cards in the bottom of the box, promising to eventually send them. She never did.
Leaning over the table, she flipped open the tattered black book, hunting for the address of Robert's cousin. She'd met the dour man at their wedding eighteen years ago and doubted if she'd recognize him today if he stood in front of her. Also, Mr. Personality never sent a Christmas card. This was the last year she was sending him one, she decided. She was going to make a list of those who sent cards and cross-reference it with the list of what she sent out. Perhaps she was being petty, but life was too short. Next year she'd only send cards to those people who had sent one to them. That was fair. She smiled again. She was also sure she'd made the same promise last year. And yet, this year she seemed to be sending out twice as many cards.
Kathy looked up at the clock: just after five. The mailman usually came at five thirty. She'd have just enough time to stuff the letters in the mailbox. Robert hated when she did that; he felt it was unfair on the mailman. However, she believed it was his job and had no issues with leaving the letters in the mailbox for him to take away. It was a lot easier than driving or, God forbid, walking eight blocks in the freezing temperatures to the closest post office. Besides, it was snowing. No need for her to go out unnecessarily. Then, as a treat for doing all the cards, she was going to order in rather than cook: Indian from The Curry House for Robert and herself, Chinese from Lucky Wah for Brendan and Theresa. If she timed it right, the kids would get home right about the same time the food arrived.
Only four cards left, all of them to Robert's business colleagues. She sat down at the table again and turned the cards over in her hands. These needed a personal touch; he should really write them himself, she decided. She pushed them into their envelopes, but left the flaps open. She'd address them, so he'd have no excuse. The first was to the head of the little multimedia company he used in East Cambridge. The second to the talent agency near Copley Square that supplied extras for crowd scenes. She smiled as she scribbled the address. It didn't seem that long ago that she'd delivered these cards by hand, trudging across Boston to put them into the mailboxes because they couldn't afford the stamps.
How quickly things had changed.
Robert and Kathy's struggling independent television-production company had landed one small job, an insert for a documentary on racism. It was a small, self-contained interview segment with an African American hip-hop artist. They'd recorded it over a weekend and thought nothing more about it. Then the artist had won an award, made the cover of Esquire, and the documentary had won a Palme d'Or award. Robert had ridden the coattails of that success. He had new corporate brochures printed up that managed to give the impression that R&K Productions had won the award themselves. As usual, no one bothered to check, and the little lie became self-perpetuating. Kathy remembered a dinner where she was introduced as "one half of the company that won the Palme d'Or for that marvelous documentary ..." She'd been so embarrassed, she hadn't had the nerve to contradict the speaker.
The company flourished and in doing so had taken its toll on them both over the years. Building a business meant that certain things—family, friendships, personal time, vacations—went by the wayside. R&K Productions still made documentaries, but nowadays principally concentrated on advertising: corporate training videos and commercials; they also shot local-color pieces-inserts—for foreign videos. She knew Robert finally accepted—and regretted—that he'd never now make huge, landmark documentaries for National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, or HBO. Kathy didn't share those regrets; the money was regular and, with two teens and a mortgage, she'd take financial security over artistic integrity any day. It had always been one of the fundamental differences between them.
She looked at the envelope in her hand. Burst Postproduction House. She said the words aloud, surprising herself, her voice sounding unusually loud in the silence of the kitchen. Post-Production-a new business in itself, where computers cleaned up the errors humans made.
Kathy rifled through the address book looking for Burst, though she doubted she would find it. This was one of the new companies Robert had only started working with this year. He never wrote the most recent addresses in the old address book. He preferred to store them in his iPhone.
Kathy wandered out into the hallway. Although this would be their sixth Christmas in this home, she'd never quite gotten used to the sense of space, particularly in the hallway. Their first house had had a short, dark, narrow hallway that led straight into the kitchen; this one boasted a large, circular foyer that, to be truthful, she thought just a bit wasteful. She would much rather have had bigger rooms. It was also cold; the ornate marble floor was lovely to look at, but it radiated the chill like a fridge.
"Robert!" She leaned on the blond wood railing and looked upstairs. "Robert!" Tilting her head to one side, she could faintly hear the thrum of the shower in the bedroom.
She tapped the cards in her hand against the banister; then, sighing, she started up the stairs. On the landing her feet sank into the deep pile of the impossible-to-keep-clean cream-colored carpet. Their bedroom was at one end of the house; the kids' rooms were at the other. It afforded all of them a measure of privacy. She pushed into the bedroom, blinking in surprise at the image of the petite woman with the heart-shaped face reflected in the mirrored doors of the closets. She paused for a single moment, assessing herself: She needed to lose at least four inches around her waist, and gray roots were showing through her chestnut-brown hair. She was already depressed at being on the wrong side of forty—she certainly didn't want to look fifty! Right after Christmas she was going to stop eating carbs, join Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig or both, and go back to the gym. She'd go in the afternoon when all the trim, Pilates-obsessed, young yuppie mothers who filled the morning classes were picking up their equally perfect kids from school. Real women, with real figures, worked out in the afternoons, she decided.
The shower was louder now, and she could see tendrils of steam creeping from beneath the en suite door. The water would be scalding; she didn't know how he could stand it so hot. Robert was humming something vaguely Christmassy—"Do They Know It's Christmas?" she thought, but it would be impossible to tell, because, even though she loved him dearly, she would be the first to admit that he was tone deaf.
Robert's clothes were scattered across the bed. Automatically, she stooped and lifted a crumpled purple silk tie off the floor. She'd given it to him as part of his Christmas present last year. She felt a guilty twinge: She'd gotten him another tie this year. Red paisley. He was impossible to buy for; anything he wanted, he simply bought. Shirts and ties were always a safe bet.
Kathy sat on the edge of the bed and looked around the too-white bedroom. She'd change it this year. White was too cold, too hard, and the mirrored doors bounced the light back, making her squint, deepening the lines on her forehead and around her mouth. Even the peach-colored duvet looked pale and washed-out. She'd go to Benjamin Moore and get some color charts after Christmas, adding it to the growing list of things she was going to do "after Christmas." She also knew that the list would probably not survive into the second week of the New Year.
Kathy spread out the cards on the bedspread and reached into the pocket of Robert's jacket, which was thrown across the end of the bed, and pulled out his cell. Thin and sleek, it was a combination phone and pocket computer, with a large rectangular color screen. When he had first gotten it, he'd sat up in bed beside her one night and demonstrated several applications that he had eagerly downloaded, only giving up when she finally fell asleep.
Kathy turned it on. The Apple icon lit up on the screen, then gave way to his screen saver: a picture of their dead cocker spaniel Rufus. She shuddered. It was morbid to keep the picture; why would he want to relive the loss, everyday? Her lips twisted in a wry smile. Robert always had trouble letting things go.
Kathy unlocked the screen, revealing brightly lit rows of colorful icons. She touched the little brown Contacts icon at the top of the screen, and a listing of names and addresses appeared. She started to scroll down the names to the B's, looking for Burst Postproduction.
The name stopped her cold. Burroughs, Stephanie.
For an instant, a single moment of time, the room shifted, all the colors becoming brighter, sharper, though the sounds were muted. For the space of a single heartbeat her entire concentration was on that name glowing black on pale blue on the screen.
There was a name she hadn't come across in a long time, a name she had never thought she'd see again.
There was a tiny red flag on the screen beside the entry.
The shower changed tempo and then died, Robert's off-key singing becoming louder.
Moving quickly now, fingers fumbling, she turned off the phone.
Shoving it back into Robert's jacket pocket, she darted from the room.
"Kathy? Were you looking for me?"
Robert's voice trailed her down the stairs. But all she could hear was the thundering of her blood in her ears, thumping in time to the name echoing inside her head: Stephanie Burroughs.
Chapter TwoKathy's heart was hammering so hard in her chest that she could actually feel the flesh tremble beneath her skin. She stood in the kitchen doorway, gasping for breath in the chill December air. Stray snowflakes spiralled out of the darkness and kissed her cheeks and forehead. She was blinking furiously, but she would not cry. Not yet. Not now.
With a little red flag beside her name.
The conscious part of her brain suggested that it might be nothing. Stephanie Burroughs was in advertising; Robert was sure to have the names of just about everyone in the business in his phone. But instinct and emotion kept flashing back to the little red flag icon beside the name. You only put a flag beside something important, didn't you?
It could be perfectly innocent.
But she knew it was not.
Kathy shook her head savagely. She brushed at her eyes with the palm of her right hand, pushing away the threatened tears. She could be wrong. She might be wrong. She wanted to be wrong.
But she knew she wasn't. Not this time. Not now.
Stephanie Burroughs was back.
Six years ago, around about the same time they'd moved into this house, Robert had had an affair with Stephanie Burroughs. He'd denied it, but Kathy knew—she knew—he'd had an affair. She'd always been slightly nervous about Stephanie's association with her husband, and then, when a friend—who was no longer a friend—had spotted Robert and Stephanie together at the Stones concert at Fenway Park and had gleefully told her, her suspicions had been confirmed. Three months of too many lame excuses, too many late nights at the office, too many weekend business trips. All of it had suddenly made sense. Everything had pointed to one inescapable conclusion: Her husband was having an affair.
On one terrible summer evening, with the sun low and red in the New England sky, she had turned and faced him. He'd been standing over the barbecue in the backyard, head wreathed in smoke, hamburger meat crisping on the grill. Without preamble, she had asked him flatly if he was having an affair with his researcher. In the instant when his eyes had slid from hers she'd known the truth even before he denied it. Flat-out denied it, with enough anger and outrage to rattle her convictions. She'd brought out her suspicions, and he'd managed to counter every one of them with a rational excuse. She'd never managed to prove it, and weeks of recriminations and anguish had followed. Then Stephanie had left the company and moved away, and with her departure a lot of the heat had gone out of the argument. Things drifted, then Robert and Kathy had settled back into their old routine.
Kathy had almost, but not quite, forgotten about the woman. It had been a long time since Stephanie's name had flitted across her consciousness, though she still felt that little shiver of insecurity when she saw her husband looking at a pretty woman at a party.
But now, Stephanie Burroughs's name was in his new phone, with a little red flag beside it.
"Hey, what's up—it's freezing out here!" Robert came up behind her, wrapping his strong arms across the top of her shoulders, resting his chin on the top of her head. He smelled fresh and clean, of soap and water and a hint of some cologne she didn't recognize.
Kathy pulled away and stepped back into the kitchen. "Just getting a breath of air; the kitchen was stuffy. Nice cologne."
"Yeah. It's new. I didn't know if you'd like it."
"I do," she said curtly as she closed the door and spun away from him, not looking into his eyes, fearful that he would see something in her face or that she would see something in his; after eighteen years of marriage it was difficult to keep a secret. She began to put return address labels on the last few cards. They were tacky wreath-decorated labels sent from a charity in their annual plea for money. Kathy always wondered if it was bad karma to use the preprinted labels without actually donating to the charity. "I left a couple of cards on the bed," she began.
"I saw them...."
"I don't have the addresses, and besides they're personal cards—it would be better if you wrote and signed them."
"What's wrong?" he asked quickly.
Kathy glanced sidelong at him. "Nothing."
He'd been thirty-one when she married him, tall and gangly with a shock of black hair that refused to stay combed. The hair had remained more or less intact and he'd filled out some, but in truth he'd aged well. Extremely well. Unlike her, she thought bitterly. He'd matured; she had gotten old.
"Why do you ask?" she added.
Robert smiled, the corners of his lips creasing, and he tilted his head to one side, a movement she'd once found endearing, but which now irritated her. "Because you've got the tone in your voice."
"That tone." His smile deepened. "The tone that tells me that you're pissed off at me."
"Oh, and the sigh is another sure sign. The sigh and the tone. You're like a great jazz band, Kathy ... always in syncopation."
"Look, I'm tired. I've been writing cards for hours. Mostly your cards, to your friends and your colleagues," she added bitterly. "I do it every year. And every year it's last minute, and I'm always missing addresses. You don't help."
Excerpted from the Affair by Colette Freedman Copyright © 2013 by Colette Freedman. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Colette Freedman is a internationally produced playwright whose net game is an A- and back court is a C+.
Hillary Leigh Gross is an environmental consultant and staunch political activist. Her tennis game is a solid B+.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is a good book. I just didn't like that it repeated itself several times. Who wants to read the same scene three times from each character? I found myself skipping several pages because I didn't want to read the same thing again. Overall, it is a great book that has you turning the pages to see what happens next.
This is a riveting account of an affair told from the three perspectives of the husband, wife and mistress. The writing is very strong, immediately drawing the audience into each of the character's mindsets. I particularly liked Jimmy Moran and his mentor/father like relationship with Robert. He is a funny character who jumped off the page and gave the audience a peek into Robert's own future if he doesn't change his ways. I also enjoyed Maureen's sass and Rose's earnest accounts of her philandering Tommy. The main characters were wonderful, but it was the supporting characters who really made the book worthy of five stars. Strongly recommend. Would make a great film.
Just stayed up until 2:00 in the morning to finish Colette Freedman's "The Affair." Beautifully compassionate look at an affair from the perspective of each of the three people involved in it. Great book club discussion questions at the end too. Highly recommend.
Extremely well written A wonderful read Could not put the book down
A compelling read about three people caught up in an affair. Freedman does a beautiful job expressing each person's motivations and gets inside of their heads as they each become deeper and deeper embroiled. Honest and raw, each character is equally unapologetic and likable and their dialogue is rich and unique. I could not put this book down and while the stylistic choice of repetition was sometimes grating, it did not detract from the fast paced and engrossing story.
A riveting story about an affair, what caused it and the effects it has on the parties involved. This is not a story about love, nor is it a story about commitment. This story is about real life and how it can come between a husband and a wife. The author, Colette Freedman, does a wonderful job of presenting the story from the point of view of the people affected by the story - the wife, the husband and the mistress. From the start I related to Kathy. Her life and circumstances, similar to that of many married women, drew me into the story. Her feelings and her thoughts were brought to the page in a way that made it easy for me to relate to her and to feel her confusion and desolation. Her point of view was realistic, although she was angry and upset, she accepted her part in the current state of her marriage. She acknowledge that she placed her attention solely on the house, the kids and the day-to-day life of a stay-at-home mom neglecting her role as a wife. I appreciated that the author brought all this to the surface, otherwise the story would have lost its appeal to me. When Robert told his part of the story, I was already siding with Kathy. Through his hesitation, doubts and heartfelt musings, I saw the other side of the story. I could understand where he was coming from, but I could not sympathize fully. He displayed some questionable behavior in terms of laying the blame, often assuming what Kathy was thinking or feeling. In the end, I think he understood what a fool he'd been and that it really was more a lack of communication than a lack of love that tore his marriage apart. I enjoyed his voice and the way that the author brought his hesitations and justifications to the page. His conflicting thoughts about his affair served to make him feel more real to me and connected to him in a way that made me understand him better. Stephanie. Well, not my favorite character by any means. She may not have been at fault in Kathy and Robert drifting apart, but she certainly did not help. Her point of view only helped in making me dislike her even more. The reasons she used to justify starting the relationship in the first place were absurd. She came across as selfish and demanding when she knew what she was getting into from the start. I didn't see her as Robert saw her - supportive and understanding of his career and devoted to him, especially there at the end when she made it clear to me that she saw him as someone below her professional stature. The writing was very good, even if in the final confrontation the points of view overlapped and I was confused as to who was saying what. The main characters were complex and interesting to get to know and the insight into their conflicting thoughts added to the overall story. From hesitation and doubt to loyalty and desolation, the scope of emotions brought to the page were overwhelming and realistic. This book managed to touch me deeply and gave me insights into a situation many married couples struggle with - drifting apart, its cause and effects. It opened my eyes and made me realize how lack of communication can lead to the death of a marriage.
Colette Freedman's The Affair is a compelling and wonderful read. The story centers on the lives of three people; a husband and wife and his mistress. It details the turbulent and emotionally fraught situation that occurs when one spouse decides to stray. The characters are wonderfully drawn and believable, I found myself, shockingly rooting for the mistress. Freedman does something very clever and traces the affair over a period of a few bays, each section is told from one of the character's POV and it provides wonderful texture to the story. It is a fast read but completely enjoyable. I thought it was going to be sinfully fluffy but Freedman manages to pack in a lot of pathos and I was pleasantly surprised. I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone searching for a fun, thoughtful read.
Colette Freedman has taken three ordinary people with ordinary problems and joys--and woven a fascinating story about how they come together--she has written a real page turner which keeps you wondering about what will happen next--and it isn't always what you expect! She is an author who knows the human condition, and has gone about creating living, breathing men and women. Can't wait to see what she does next!!
I loved it. Couldn't put it down.
I bought this book based on the reviews but was extremely disappointed. There was NOTHING riveting about this story. I would not recommend it.
I don't read adult novels often, I'm definitely more of a YA girl. But every once in a while it's nice to read something I can relate to a bit more. Of course, in this case I can't relate to the characters (and I hope I never do), but the more adult themes seeped in reality were a nice change. Colette takes an interesting approach to this story and her characters. The Affair consists of three mini stories - Kathy (the wife), Robert (the husband), and Stephanie (the mistress). All three stories encompass the same few days and give us glimpses of certain conversations and events from a different perspective. While there were times when this repetition was annoying, I loved reading how these different events were interpreted by each individual. This narrative style also allowed us to get deep into each narrators head and feel (depending on the narration) some pity for their plight. Granted, I don't feel terribly sorry for Robert for having an affair, but Robert and Stephanie became a bit more sympathetic after being in their head. With Kathy we see search for concrete evidence of her husband's deception and try to figure out what her next steps will be if he's having an affair; Robert struggle with his conscience regarding his actions; and Stephanie attempt to balance her personal and business relationships while being the other woman. I went through a wide range of emotions with this novel. Suspicion, confusion, anger, sadness, a lot of anger, disgust, and (somewhat) happy. Told in the same narration style, I'm excited to read The Consequences and find out what happened after the conclusion of The Affair.
not the best book I have read but OK.
Liked the point of view from the three characters. Pretty much knew how it would end.
This book tells the story of an affair from three points of view: the suspicious wife; the lying, cheating husband; and the "other woman" who is 16 years younger than the cheating husband.
Perfect Book Club Book This was an incredibly thought provoking book which I raced through. It is an insightful look into the complexities of relationships and Freedman does a terrific job intertwining the lives of Robert, Stephanie and Kathy.The Affair is a page turning, easy to read story with compelling characters and questions at the end which will make you want to invite a bunch of friends over and dish.
Just finished this book, staying up LATE LATE LATE to reach the end. Couldn't put it down. Fascinating look into the politics/emotions/personal logic of an affair. You get to ride along with the wife, the husband, and the mistress; just when you side with one character, you see another point of view and everything alters. This book will start AMAZING discussions! Perfect for a book group. I couldn't stop thinking about it (and yearning to get back to it) while I was reading it.... and I'm still thinking about it now. BIG recommendation for this book.
I really REALLY liked the final three chapters. I was surprised and impressed with what Freedman had the characters say and do. It's a good read and has just enough tension to move along nicely. But oh boy! I really loved the ending.
Incredibly redundant and dull. Pages and pages of the exact same dialogue three times over. I should have saved my mon