Five Days

Five Days
by Douglas Kennedy
Published by Atria Books
336 pages
Genre: fiction; women’s fiction
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
4 / 5

People get married for all sorts of reasons. Compatibility, financial comfort, escape, passion. Some even get married because they love each other.

In the case of Laura and Dan, true love may not have been the motivating factor, but while their marriage may lack passion and romance, and while Laura may have had to force herself into a state of contentment, they’re still working at it, twenty years and two children later. This isn’t to say that Laura does not sense that there is something else – if not exactly better – out there for her. Part of this is due to having a teenage daughter about to head off to college. Laura does not live vicariously through her child, but she does allow herself to feel a sort of wistful sense of loss. It doesn’t help that Dan is a bit of a turd. He recently suffered some professional woes, which he battles by withdrawing from his wife.

Under this haze, Laura heads to Boston for a professional workshop. While there, she meets Richard, who is described as a very gray man in both appearance and demeanor. Nothing about him appeals to Laura, not in any sense. But they meet a second time, and after talking with him, Laura discovers that he is actually a very vivid man.

Like Laura, Richard’s marriage is not all he wishes it to be, and in her he sees a somewhat kindred soul. The two are attracted to each other, but to act on it … ah. There lies the conundrum. If they were to have an affair, what would be the cost to their marriages? And if they didn’t pursue passion, what would be the cost to themselves?

Laura is a likable woman, and we see her conflict, whether with her daughter, her husband, Richard, or herself. She is recognizable; most of us know a Laura, and for some of us, we are Laura. She has managed to compartmentalize her life into tidy cubbies, even amongst her friends. Richard’s arrival calls into question all that she has so neatly arranged. We know, as well as she does, that the temptation Richard presents could cause cataclysmic upheavals in Laura’s life, regardless of whether or not she has an affair with him. Just by being a possibility, Richard upends Laura’s manufactured contentment.

Douglas Kennedy’s story is not predictable, nor does it flinch from the challenging questions it asks. If it is not always gripping or engrossing, we can forgive him because he takes no easy turns and offers no easy answers. We keep reading because we care; we want to know if Laura can find the fulfillment she deserves.

I enjoyed this book. It isn’t an “I can’t sleep until I know what happens!” kind of book, but it should not be dismissed because it isn’t. The story pulls you in and the characters keep you engaged.

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