Dorothea Benton Frank explores those who stop – nearly 30 years after saying “I do” – to take stock of their lives and do not like what they see. Leslie and Wes have been married over 30 years, have two adult children, and now Wes’ best friends are leaving their first wives to go after younger, sexier models. Les has to endure the rootless struggles of her children (their son Bertie is an itinerate photographer who can’t land a steady paycheck and their daughter Charlotte had a daughter out of wedlock, can’t sell even one house as a real estate agent, and pawns off her daughter on her parents at every opportunity), the silly young women who have now replaced Les’ closest friends in their social circle, and the constant distain, demands, and disregard at the hands of the man she has promised to spend her life with. It’s no surprise Les takes stock and finds her life lacking. She takes the brave step to start asking for more, to do the things she wants to do, to shake off the chains of being housekeeper, cook, babysitter, and maid. She travels to Charleston, WV to stay with her brother, a homosexual that Wes has kept her from spending much time with. There she reconnect with her first love and has to make the monumental decision whether to put herself first or go back to the life she had committed to so long ago.
I love the focus of this novel, as I’m sure many women “wake up” and find themselves in this position, whether they’ve been married many decades or only a handful of years. Disappointment, unfulfilled desire, and disregard are a toxic brew that many women force themselves into because they feel a sense of duty leaves them no other choice. Les takes a very pragmatic approach, stepping slowly and analyzing her feelings. No one will feel much sympathy for Wes. The only complaints I have is that it all ties up too neatly. Those types of situations prompt much bitterness, anger, and resentment – on both sides. To have it all end so easily feels inauthentic. Also, the book abruptly ends and we’re treated to an overly lengthy epilogue that rushes to tie up all the ends just as neatly. I think after all Les endured, she deserved a more complicated – read realistic – ending to her journey.
Amazon link is here.