A Lilly's Library Book Club Pick!
Behind the chic veneer of a wellness clinic lies a dangerous secret, in this compelling women's fiction novel from the author of The White Coat Diaries.
Dr. Maya Rao is a gynecologist trying to balance a busy life. With three young children, a career, and a happy marriage, she should be grateful—on paper, she has it all. But after a disastrous encounter with an entitled patient, Maya is forced to walk away from the city hospital where she’s spent her entire career.
An opportunity arises when Maya crosses paths with Amelia DeGilles at a school meeting. Amelia is the owner and entrepreneur behind Eunoia Women’s Health, a concierge wellness clinic that specializes in house calls for its clientele of wealthy women for whom no vitamin infusion or healing crystal is too expensive. All Eunoia needs is a gynecologist to join its ranks.
Amid visits to her clients’ homes, Maya comes to idolize the beautiful, successful Amelia. But Amelia’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems. When Amelia’s teenaged daughter is struck with a mysterious ailment, Maya must race to uncover the reason before it’s too late. In the process, she risks losing what’s most important to her and bringing to light a secret of her own that she’s been desperately trying to keep hidden.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
When Amelia DeGilles—forty-five, tailored jeans, nude slingbacks with a red sole—caught the arm of Maya Rao—thirty-six, threadbare leggings, brown stain on one off-brand white canvas sneaker—in the parking lot of Hamilton Hall Academy after the October parent council meeting, people noticed.
It wasn’t just that Amelia DeGilles was known for keeping the company of a very small and carefully vetted circle of other Hamilton Hall mothers, but that the slightly disheveled young Indian woman with whom she was now engaged in intimate conversation drove a Honda Odyssey with silver duct tape on one side-view mirror and had very recently, only moments earlier in fact, come into some notoriety.
“Isn’t that her? The gynecologist?” asked Evelyn Tuttle as she opened the door of her Range Rover, the car she drove on Tuesdays.
Her friend Lainey Smockett, who only owned one car but didn’t need to leave the house all that much anymore since discovering that her au pair could be deployed for so many tasks besides just childcare, nodded. “Her kid’s in Madison’s class, I think.”
Evelyn pursed her lips thoughtfully. “You know, I could swear I know her from somewhere, but I can’t place her.”
“I met her once, at back-to-school night,” Lainey said, frowning. “She seemed a little standoffish.”
“Well, she has nerve, I’ll give her that. I came in late, but I heard her little speech. Making a proposal like that, and in front of the whole parent council?” Evelyn shook her head, her long flame-red hair catching the light. “I mean, I know she’s new to Hamilton, but for God’s sake. I only voted ‘yes’ out of kindness, but she’ll never get that past the school board. They’ll be appalled.”
“Oh, I voted ‘yes’ out of kindness, too.” Lainey, noticeably younger and less fashionable than her friend, nodded in eager agreement. She adjusted her oversize black sunglasses, the ones she imagined made her look something like Audrey Hepburn but in fact made her look something like a very large hornet. “I wonder if she knows my cardiologist, Dr. Patel. He’s standoffish, too. What could Amelia want with her?”
Evelyn shrugged in a way that suggested she didn’t care to know when, in fact, she cared very much to know. “Probably to assign her to a committee for the auction. There’s still a few openings on Decorations, I think.”
“But I’m the head of Decorations!” Lainey’s eyelids fluttered in surprise. “Any new volunteer assignments have to go through me first.”
Evelyn examined her manicure. “Oh, I’m sure Amelia was going to run it by you. Probably.”
Lainey huffed in frustration. “You know, she’s always making these unilateral decisions—and what was she thinking with this year’s theme? A Night in Marrakesh? What does she want me to do? Rent a camel?”
“I think it could be nice. Tapestries and . . . other Moroccan things . . . earthenware.” Evelyn gestured vaguely, as if the tapestries and earthenware were strewn about the parking lot in front of them. “Some Arabian-looking lamps—like the kind the genie pops out of—as centerpieces. And the waiters could wear those cute little hats with the tassels.”
“But where am I supposed to get all that stuff?” Lainey crossed her arms petulantly. “I mean, I’m sure Queen Amelia can fly to Marrakesh to go shopping at the bazaar at the drop of a hat, but the rest of us have households to run without the benefit of a butler and chef and whatever else she has.” She adjusted her sunglasses again and added hopefully, “Has she invited you over yet?”
Evelyn shook her head. “Carter and Prem broke up last week.”
Lainey’s face crumpled. “What? No, I’m so sorry.”
Evelyn shrugged. “It wouldn’t have lasted past graduation anyway. I was hoping they’d go to prom together. I bet I’d at least have gotten an invitation to the house for pictures. I might have gotten a look at the foyer. But now . . .” She sighed dejectedly.
“Oh my God, the foyer.” Lainey had a faraway look in her eyes. “I bet it’s even more stunning in person than it was in Architectural Digest.”
“You’d think with a house like that, she’d at least volunteer to host the auction there, instead of making you decorate the gym every year,” Evelyn said. “Her philanthropy is a little performative, if you ask me.”
Lainey’s hand flew to her heart. “Why, whatever would make you think that?” she asked, feigning shock. Then she rolled her eyes in the direction of the far end of the lot, adjacent to the school gymnasium, where a yellow construction crane was parked in front of a gaping hole in the earth. The area was cordoned off with orange and white parking barriers, and a placard proclaimed, in large letters: FUTURE SITE OF THE DEGILLES MINDFULNESS SPACE. Evelyn chortled, and Lainey, encouraged by this reaction, added conspiratorially, “I heard the faculty wanted to use the money to buy new 3D printers and microscopes, but you know Amelia.”
Evelyn nodded. “Any real estate she can slap her name on.”
A black Aston Martin SUV with red trim glided past them and pulled to a stop next to Amelia and her companion. The driver—a sandy-haired young man in skinny jeans and a sports jacket—jumped out. Amelia nodded at him, a gesture so subtle it could have easily been missed, and he opened both the front and rear passenger side doors. Then, as Lainey, Evelyn, and several other Hamilton Hall parents watched with intense but still discreet interest, the two women climbed into the car—Amelia in the front seat and Maya in the rear—and the driver sped them off.
It was silent for a moment. Finally, Lainey crossed her arms and said, “Well, that woman must be one smooth talker if she’s already made friends with Amelia DeGilles.”
Evelyn shrugged again, her mouth pinched shut. “Well, she’s Indian or Middle Eastern or whatever, right? Maybe Amelia wants her help renting a camel.”
Lainey snorted. The merriment, however, was hollow. Both women were surprised to realize how much the gynecologist’s coup had unsettled them. Had they misjudged her? That hardly seemed possible. The woman’s side-view mirror was literally being held together with duct tape—duct tape, for God’s sake! Yet there she was, going somewhere with Amelia DeGilles. Invited to go somewhere with Amelia DeGilles, daughter of legendary film composer Rupert DeGilles and model Melinda Spencer DeGilles, philanthropist and entrepreneur, a person named by the Philadelphia Inquirer as one of the Main Line’s “10 Most Powerful Women Under 50.” The same Amelia DeGilles who couldn’t be bothered to show up for a single one of the weekly Hamilton Hall Mom Morning Meetups, who never attended nor RSVP’d for birthday parties to which her children had been invited, who’d for years listed her phone number in the Hamilton Hall parent directory as “by request.”
Everyone wanted to be invited into Amelia DeGilles’s inner circle. It seemed a travesty that the disheveled gynecologist should be, and without so much as even trying. Who did she think she was?
Two Days Earlier
Maya Rao, cum laude graduate of Temple Medical School, dean’s list all four years of college, salutatorian of her high school class, should have known better than to take her three children with her to a drive-through car wash. The minute her nine-year-old daughter, Diya, suggested it, warning bells should have sounded in her head. Her motherly instincts should have directed her to drive straight home from school pickup without stopping.
Maybe it was low blood sugar due to her missing lunch, or the fact that Niam, her four-year-old, was beside himself with excitement about the idea, or the blissful silence of the baby, Asha, finally asleep in her car seat after several endless bouts of hysterical, colicky crying. Some combination of factors led to a moment of overconfidence, a split-second lapse in judgment.
The car wash was a treat for the older kids. Their father brought them here in his tiny sedan sometimes when they were starved for entertainment. They would pick up an order of french fries from the drive-through burger place next door and eat them while being ferried through a soapy, aquatic wonderland. Like a very brief, very inexpensive theme park ride.
Maya hadn’t taken her Honda Odyssey in for a wash in more than a year. It was a nonessential chore for which she never could find the time. And as dingy as the exterior was, the interior was far worse: ground Cheerios in every crevice, an entire petrified granola bar somehow wedged underneath the floor mat of Niam’s seat. She’d been especially aware of the state of the van—which her husband affectionately referred to as the Hotessey—when she pulled up to the curb on the Hamilton Hall campus that morning, along the tree-lined circular driveway designated as the drop-off site for elementary school students, and saw a spotless black Aston Martin SUV with red trim glide past. The woman in the passenger seat was slender, with long, straight golden hair and, though Maya caught only a glimpse of her, seemed to have an almost regal bearing. She was the type of woman whose presence, even from a distance, even inside a car, couldn’t be ignored.
Diya noticed the woman, too. Probably more importantly, Diya noticed Maya noticing her. “Maybe we should get a car wash after school,” she said, climbing out of the van and tugging on her backpack, which was wedged between Niam’s seat and the door.
Maya smiled. She might only be nine, but Diya had the mind of a much older, much more intuitive, and—Maya often worried—much more anxiety-ridden person. “The Hotessey’s not looking so hot, huh?” she said, reaching an arm back to help dislodge the backpack.
“No, I mean, it’s fine.” Diya pulled the backpack straps over her shoulders, then pushed her lavender-framed glasses up the bridge of her nose. “It’s just that the other cars are so—”
“Car wash!” Niam pumped his little fist, suddenly more energized than he’d been all morning. He chanted, “Car wash! Car wash!” then added with exuberance, “Can we get french fries, too? Can we go now?”
“Easy there, bud. It’s a little early for fries.” Maya glanced at the time displayed on the dashboard: 7:58. Eight minutes behind schedule. Her pulse quickened. Morning drop-off was a carefully calibrated series of steps that had to be executed perfectly. She had exactly twelve minutes to drop Niam off at his preschool down the street before attendance was taken. If they were late, even by a minute, the teacher would make her walk him to the front office to sign in. That would take another five minutes—or slightly longer, since she’d be lugging the baby’s car seat with her and, therefore, moving more slowly. She couldn’t afford that kind of delay. After dropping off Niam, she’d have fourteen minutes to drive across town to the baby’s day care and drop her off before making the roughly twenty-five minute commute into Philadelphia. She knew from experience that she had to be on the highway by 8:29 a.m. to avoid the worst of the morning traffic. When everything ran perfectly, she could be confident she’d pull into the Philadelphia General Hospital parking deck at 8:54 and walk into her office at 8:59, in time for her first appointment at 9:00 a.m. But the margin for error was dangerously thin.
“We’ll talk about this after school. We’re late,” she said urgently. “Niam, watch your fingers!”
Diya stepped onto the curb with a feeble wave.
“Bye, honey! Have an awesome day!” Maya called as the van’s door slid shut with a metallic thunk. “Remember to work hard and try your best!”
Diya was already making her way, feet dragging and shoulders hunched, across the wide green lawn of the elementary school, joining the stream of other students filing into the building.
“She can’t hear you, Mommy,” Niam said helpfully. “She’s outside the car.” He pointed.
“I know.” Maya let her gaze linger on Diya for a moment, on her long, black, slightly frizzy ponytail and floral backpack embellished with the words Girl Power! in pink glitter. She wished she could telescope her arms out the van window and grab her daughter, hold her tightly by the shoulders, tell her this year was going to be better. This was where she belonged, and Maya was just sorry—so incredibly sorry—she hadn’t realized it sooner.
It shamed her to think of it, but she’d been neglectful, had slipped unwittingly into complacency when it came to her eldest over the last few years. She’d grown lax in her duty to provide the right environment. To optimize and maximize and capitalize for the benefit of her child. But now, her eyes following Diya as she crossed the verdant expanse toward the ivy-covered buildings, Maya felt a deep and calming satisfaction, like a warm shawl being pulled around her, easing some of the tension she always carried in her neck.
A car horn blared. A Cadillac Escalade was waiting for her parking spot, its driver gesticulating angrily.
“Fucker,” Maya mumbled, pulling the van out of its spot and into the traffic inching around the circle driveway. Hunched over the steering wheel, her neck muscles in spasm again, she crept toward the exit and onto bustling, congested Lancaster Avenue.
“That car was a fucker,” Niam’s voice piped up.
Maya cringed. Glancing at him in the rearview mirror, she said, “Mommy shouldn’t have said that. That’s not a nice thing to say.”
“You should apple pies,” he said sagely.
“I should apologize, you’re right. Seriously, honey, don’t use that word in school, okay? Remember what Mrs. Diaz said?”
“Snookus is licking my toes!” Niam replied, laughing.
Snookus was Niam’s imaginary pet dog. He’d appeared six months earlier and seemed to materialize whenever Niam wanted to change the subject. Niam was fiercely loyal to Snookus and would entertain no suggestions that his beloved invisible pet might not be real. For a four-year-old, he was fairly easygoing—a quality he’d likely inherited from his father—but the question of Snookus’s existence, everyone in the family knew, was strictly off-limits.
“That’s great, honey, but I just want to remind you about being careful with your words. Remember we talked about that with your teacher?”
“Some words are inappropriate,” Niam said.
Maya’s shoulders relaxed. “Right.” She grinned to herself. He still couldn’t pronounce apologize, but inappropriate rolled off his tongue. Just a year ago she thought he might need speech therapy because he still wasn’t speaking in complete sentences and avoided talking at all if he could help it. Something clicked in him a few months later, and ever since then, it felt like he never shut up. More recently, he’d developed a knack for committing impolite words to memory and later working them into casual conversation, usually at the most inopportune times.
“Like poop,” Niam said.
“Well . . . no, actually . . .” She parked the van in the fire lane in front of the Learning Tree Preschool, a squat red building reminiscent of a barn, and switched on her hazard lights. She twisted around in her seat to face him. “That’s just an anatomical—”
“Mommy!” Niam interrupted. “Eight-one-zero! Eight-one-zero!” He pointed urgently at the dashboard.
“Shit! We’re late!” Maya sprang out of the driver’s seat and over the center console. In one fluid motion, she unbuckled Niam from his car seat, slung his backpack over her shoulder, and unsnapped the baby’s car seat from its base. She slid open the van door. “Go, go, go!” she shouted, as if they were infantrymen about to parachute out of a plane.
“Shit is inappropriate,” Niam said, suddenly in no hurry at all.
“I know! Sorry! Mommy can’t be late to work today, Niam, so we have to go fast! Like a superhero!”
Niam liked the sound of that. He put his fists on his hips and jutted out his chin. “I’m superfast! Don’t worry, Mommy, I won’t let you be late!”