Category Archives: tragedy and sadness

Those We Love Most

Those We Love Most
by Lee Woodruff
Published by Voice
320 pages
Genre: adult; literature; family
Available on
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
4.5 / 5 cupcakes

I will kick off this review by stating that I really liked this book, although I really did not like many of its characters.

Meet the Corrigans, a typical suburban Chicago family of five: mother Maura, father Pete, and three adorable children.

Cue foreboding music now.

One sunny morning, as Maura walks her sons to school, an accident takes the life of her oldest son, nine-year-old James. The circumstances behind this death are slowly revealed, just as the guilt Maura feels slowly attempts to undo her. How Maura and Pete react to the loss of their son is the central story of the novel. Pete disgusts his wife, whether by talking to the person ostensibly responsible for James’s death or by drinking too much. But Maura has her own issues, and we are not quick to forgive her.

The other story is that of Maura’s parents, Roger and Margaret. These two are a bit more stereotypical than Maura and Pete: Roger is an aging banking wizard who has enjoyed the company of a woman not his wife, largely due to Margaret’s flinty personality. She is not a demonstrative woman, preferring to let her caretaking actions speak for her. Roger, on the other hand, believes he is entitled his flings, and the way in which he treats his Florida lover wins him no fans. Roger and Margaret face their own crisis, and the way in which they approach it echoes the differences between Maura and Pete.

Lee Woodruff writes with compassion, but she does not shrink away from her characters. They say and do loathsome things, and Woodruff makes no apologies for them. She lets us see what motivates them, but she does not excuse them, nor does she ask us to do so. What would you do if you lost a child? What would happen to your marriage? Pete and Maura are not held up as an example of how to deal with a tragedy, yet we do cheer for them to find their way. That is a testament to Woodruff’s writing, because there are times that Pete and Maura seem to beg for unhappiness.

The same goes for Margaret and Roger. Try liking one of those two. Just try! Margaret bestows her affection with great reluctance, and Roger’s inner whinging makes us think Margaret has a point. But his treatment of her is unkind at best.

I hated having to put this book down, because I got so engrossed in the stories of its characters. It is not light reading in the least, but it is good reading.

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Filed under adult, family, literature, tragedy and sadness