By Charlotte Wood
Riverhead Books, 9780593086438, August 2020, 272pp.
The Short of It:
Started off as a sweet story about three friends coming together after a friend’s death, but then was punched through with sadness and a little darkness which I was not expecting.
The Rest of It:
After the passing of their friend Sylvie, Adele, Jude, Wendy and her dog Finn, arrive at Sylvie’s old beach house to prepare it for sale. Adele, a former actress who still has her looks about her, prances around, flaunting her flexibility which she still possesses even in her 70s. Jude, the most sensible but also the most abrasive of the trio, puts up with her to a point but lets everyone know when they are annoying or slacking at the task at hand. After all, they have a job to do.
Wendy arrives a little sad over the death of her friend but also sad about the husband she lost and the next chapter of their lives. They aren’t getting any younger. By her side, is her sweet dog Finn who is also getting on in his years. So much so that he has anxiety attacks, paces relentlessly and has accidents, regularly. Wendy knows that she should put him down, but can’t bring herself to do so. Poor Finn.
The author does a magnificent job of capturing that fleeting feeling of time passing too quickly. In their prime, these four women were formidable and strong, successful and bonded through friendship. But in their 70s, they are tired and short with each other as they each figure out how they fit together without their friend Sylvie. As insecurities flare and one big secret is revealed that threatens to destroy their friendship, they pause for a moment to figure out where they want to go because even at this age, they have choices.
I really enjoyed this book and the writing in particular but there was one big problem I had with it and it’s the treatment of the elderly dog, Finn. I know that a beloved dog approaching the end of its life was probably intentional given that these ladies were also getting on in years and approaching the last stage of life, but the way this poor animal is treated by the other ladies in the house really bothered me. He’s full of anxiety, pushed around, forced to sleep outside even though he’s terrified of his own shadow. I really do not know why the author chose to include such horrible treatment of this poor dog. It was terribly disappointing and I felt, a poor choice and unfortunately affected how I felt about the book overall.
If you can get past these moments with the dog, then you might appreciate the writing, as I did. But I felt so sorry for this poor pup. I really did.
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
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