A follow-up to Freedman’s The Affair, this novel follows the aftermath of a wife’s discovery of her husband’s affair.
It is Christmas Eve night, a scant few hours since Kathy confronted Stephanie about having an affair with Kathy’s husband Robert. Despite promising to spend New Year’s with her, despite asking her to marry him, and despite promising that he would talk to his wife, Robert left with Kathy.
Devastated, Stephanie leaves Boston and flies home to Wisconsin, where she attempts to process the day’s events. She loves Robert, and she thought he loved her. But he walked out of her home, following his wife. It’s over, she believes. And so here she is, in frigid Wisconsin, with a family she rarely acknowledges, much less sees, and the dawning fear that she might be pregnant.
Contrary to how it appears, Robert truly did plan on leaving Kathy, and he does love Stephanie. She is younger than he is, sexually available to him, and life with her promises to be one of freedom and excitement. Yes, he left with Kathy, but that means nothing to him. No promises were made. Well, that part may not be true. He might have told Kathy that he would stay away from Stephanie, and he might have led his wife to believe that he loves her and wants to repair their marriage. But a new year is upon him, and Robert thinks now might be a good time for a “New Year / New You” philosophy.
Kathy is reeling. Several years earlier, she thought Robert was having an affair. With Stephanie, no less. But he wasn’t, and when she happened across proof that he is now, she feels rendered in two. But Robert left with her. He chose her, not Stephanie. And Robert’s reasoning for the affair – that he believed Kathy no longer loved him – is not unbelievable. With introspection, Kathy realizes that Robert might have a point. She even acknowledges that Stephanie seems like a decent sort of woman, and she believes Stephanie’s claim that if the other woman thought Kathy loved her husband, she would have never had the affair with him.
But what now? What if Stephanie is pregnant? What about Robert’s “New Year / New You”? And what about Kathy and their two children?
Told from Robert, Kathy, and Stephanie’s points-of-view, we are privy to how they think and what they think. We are there with Stephanie when she takes the pregnancy test, just as we are there with Kathy when she suspects Robert may not be keeping his promise.
And that’s the weakness of this book. I like that we’re in all three heads, but we are in them to the point of repetition. Entire conversations are rehashed from the different viewpoints, and that gets old the second or third time it happens.
Freedman also clearly paints a villain in this novel. I did not read The Affair (you don’t need to in order to understand this one), so I don’t know if she so obviously chose sides then, but she does now. The problem is that she demands that we agree with her. There are no blurred lines here. One of the three is the Bad Guy, the other two are the Good Guys. We don’t have the opportunity to decide for ourselves because Freedman’s heavy hand removes that for us.
The anguish that the three feel is written realistically, though. Robert’s fears about his business and children are what we would expect him to have, as are Kathy’s fears over losing her marriage and Stephanie’s over losing Robert and potentially being pregnant with his child. Thanks to that aspect, this is a decent, quick read.
I just wish Freedman had let me decide who I think is the Bad Guy … or even if there needs to be one.