Elinor Mackey steadfastly followed the drill she had been taught. She got good grades; didn't miss a beat in college or law school; landed a lucrative corporate career; and got married. The next step, of course, is a child, but Elinor's perfect life peters out with the news that she and her husband can't have children. That tragedy is compounded when hubby Ted drifts into an affair with a local nutritionist, setting off a whole new series of unplanned explosions. Lolly Winston's novel captures a family train wreck in stop-action.
Lolly Winston's warmhearted second novel is a natural crowd-pleaser that deserves critical respect as well. She tackles difficult subjects -- infidelity, infertility, a failing marriage and a troubled kid -- with honesty and empathy for her floundering protagonists. Her plain-spoken prose and a not-too-gritty resolution should make this a book-group favorite. But Winston doesn't court popular appeal with easy laughs or shallow reassurances; her characters feel genuine sorrow and suffer real damage.
The Washington Post
The marriage of Ted and Elinor Mackey, a yuppie podiatrist-lawyer couple in their early-40s living in Northern California, is pushed to the brink when Elinor learns that Ted is having an affair with his trainer, Gina Ellison. Elinor's reaction-pity-surprises her. Winston (Good Grief) adroitly makes it clear that Ted's affair is a symptom: infertility problems have caused years of emotional turmoil. And Gina's no bimbo: she has a loving but difficult relationship with Ted, complicated further by her young son, Toby, and his immediate attachment to Ted as a stable father figure. When Elinor confronts Ted and Gina, Ted quickly ends the affair; neither is sure if infidelity or infertility should end their marriage. During their separation, Elinor takes a sabbatical from her law firm and casually dates Noah Orch, a hunky but dull arborist. Ted haphazardly resumes his relationship with Gina. As he realizes that his connection to her is more than an escape from a bad marriage, all concerned have decisions to make. Winston has a real feel for the push and pull of a marriage in crisis, and delivers it in a brisk, funny, no-nonsense style that still comes off as respectful of the material. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
At the beginning of the story, the listener is prepared for another saga of quirky but charming troubles in the lives of a successful professional couple who seem to have made all the right choices for a nearly perfect life. This couple's troubles are not charming at all, as it turns out, but overwhelming and truly heartbreaking. Elinor, nearing 40 and unable to have a baby, and her husband, Ted, have become entangled in the fertility treatment machine that includes temperature-taking, long waits in clinics, consultations, and hope held out and then dashed. Ted is especially perplexed by this frustrating, fruitless process but willing to lend his support to help his wife with her dreams. At his gym, Ted falls for a beautiful but complicated young woman with a long history of falling for the wrong guy at the wrong time. She has a geeky, needy eight-year-old son who latches onto Ted when he offers his services as a tutor. Winston, skilled at revealing layers of conflicting, strong emotion and behavior, is definitely a writer to watch. Performer Melinda Wade has the perfect crystal-clear voice for the various characters; highly recommended for public libraries.
A deceptively breezy, thoughtful look at the emotional complexities of a childless suburban California marriage. Lawyer Elinor Mackey's discovery that husband Ted, a podiatrist, is having an affair with his gym trainer, Gina, just scratches the surface of troublesome issues in the Mackeys' relationship. Forty-year-old Elinor has been trying to have a baby, enduring exhausting hormone injections and a miscarriage; Ted has stood by her stoically, even tenderly, though their sex life is shot. Immersed in her work as a top-notch international employee-relations lawyer in Silicon Valley, Elinor is addicted to writing lists and sorting the laundry, leaving little room for romance or even dinner with her husband. Ted wonders why she's no fun anymore and readily succumbs to Gina's seduction. Winston doesn't wrestle much with the moral questions raised by a middle-aged man falling for his trainer, nor does she offer any facile condemnation of one party or the other, delighting instead in complicating the plot at every turn. Just as the Mackeys separate and seem to be making headway in therapy, Gina's emotionally needy ten-year-old son Toby (and who knew she had a son?) decides that Ted is going to be the father figure in his life. Ted begins to tutor Toby, perhaps out of guilt, and then starts sleeping with Gina again. She remains wary, having been damaged and left vulnerable by various men in her life. Ted's initial feeling for her morphs from pity into (possibly) real love, while Elinor, more emotionally detached, attracts the local tree surgeon as well as the young man who comes to clean her house. And yet Ted loves El and only wants to be with her (doesn't he?). Pregnancy-at last!-cannot savethis doomed marriage, as Elinor laments, "It's not about having a baby, it's about having a family." The author allows her characters to seethe, stumble and emerge fully human. Winston (Good Grief, 2004) skillfully comes into her own with this brave second novel.