Sixteen-year-old Abigail Armstrong’s mother is the housekeeper for the wealthy Meriwether family, and they really are treated as members of the family. The Meriwether children, twins Lila and Vaughn, are Abby’s age, and the three have grown up together. Lila and Abby are as close as sisters, and while Abby has been raised with Vaughn, her feelings for him have been changing: she might just be falling in love with him. Abby’s charmed life crashes to a halt when the unthinkable happens and everything changes. She doesn’t know what might happen in the future, but she knows one thing – she’ll never forgive Lila Meriwether as long as she lives.
Twenty-five years later, Abby is the head of a corporate empire, and she is the brand name. She has amassed all the money and success that she ever thought she wanted, but she’s more unhappy than ever. She barely communicates with her husband and daughter, and a horrible accident at her factory in Mexico leaves her reeling. Then tragedy forces Lila to seek out Abby and ask her for help. Abby must deal with the unhappy memories of her past while facing the return of Vaughn into her life; Lila must come to terms with what has happened and build a new future for herself and her son.
Domestic Affairs by Eileen Goudge is a solid novel about the power of the past and the importance of not letting your memories control your future, accepting and coming to terms with what has happened before. For Abby, it’s dealing with feelings of betrayal and abuse; for Lila, it’s understanding the nature of guilt and finding the capacity to forgive. Both women have suffered horribly and been in many ways crippled by what has happened to them. It is gratifying to see them heal over the course of the novel.
Lila and Abby are well-written characters and easy to sympathize with. Abby initially comes across as a hard, cold woman, but the reader is quick to realize that it is a mask. She presents a composed face to the world, but on the inside she’s a mess. On the other hand, Lila has recently lost almost everything and everyone dear to her. She is understanding the necessity of swallowing her pride as she tries to start her life over again.
A third narrator in this novel, though she doesn’t get nearly as much time as the other two women, is Concepcion. She is related to the subplot regarding the accident at Abigail’s Mexican factory. Although it’s clear why she is included as a narrator at the end of the novel when it all comes together, her story doesn’t really fit in with the other two. Moving between Lila and Abby’s stories is seamless, but re-entering Concepcion’s story is always jarring.
Otherwise, this interesting and enjoyable novel about the importance of forgiveness and letting go is a testament to the power of friendship and definitely a good read for fans of women’s fiction.