Monday, March 9, 2009

Book Review: Domestic Affairs

Title: Domestic Affairs
Author: Eileen Goudge
Genre: Commercial Fiction
Rating: B-

Summary (from "...A moving story in which an unlikely twist of fate has the potential to change the lives of three women in ways they never could have imagined. 'Rosie and Abigail are like family,' Ina Merriweather used to say. That is, until the day Ina abruptly cast out her housekeeper, Rosie, and her fifteen-year-old daughter Abigail. Abigail felt deeply betrayed, especially by Ina's daughter Lila, who was her closest friend. Only Lila's twin brother Vaughn, with whom Abigail had been exploring the joys and heartaches of first love, showed any compassion.

"Now, twenty-five years later, an old score is about to be settled...and an old love rekindled. Abigail is now a self-made woman who has built an empire out of the homemaking skills she learned from her mother. When Lila, who married well and for decades lived the glittering life of a Park Avenue socialite, suffers a tragic reversal of fortune, an opportunity to right an old wrong lands squarely in Abigail's lap. Lila seeks the help of her childhood friend, but learns that the only opening available at the moment is as her housekeeper and Lila has no choice but to accept.

"At the same time, Abigail is coping with the fallout from a fire in her Mexico factory, which took the life of an innocent girl, whose mother, Concepción Morales, now seeks the rich señora she holds responsible for her daughter's death. In a collision of fate, Abigail, Lila, and Concepción are thrown together and must unite to save one another...and themselves."

Review: If that summary above seemed long and convulted, it kind of is because it summarizes the entire plot of the book and leaves essentially no questions unanswered before you've even started reading. (Which, technically, probably isn't the author's fault... blame the copy writer.)

Anyway, I read this book as my book club's March selection and I was thoroughly disappointed. We typically tend to read literary fiction (heavy on the character development, a little lighter on the stereotypical conventions of plot), but this one was commercial fiction to a tee. You had fires, you had affairs, you had suicides (and attempts). But you also had formulaic fiction and you knew exactly where it would end up.

The only thing that kept me reading (other than my obligation to the book club) were a couple of the guys. I wanted to see what happened with Vaughn, Kent, Jesus, and Neal... not Karim, he was a throw-away character in my book, provided only to round out the pairings. Also, the mother-child realationships were "complex," but in a sterotypical way (in my opinion). There really wasn't any meet to dive into with this book.

Also, one thing we can blame on the writer (in addition to the plot and character issues mentioned above): the prose wasn't that interesting, she has a few pet words that she brought into the game too often in my opinion.

We pick books from a guide provided by the Book Club Selections organization, and I now feel compelled to go on their website and see what in God's name made them think this would be a great book to fuel discussion.

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