Denial is a powerful tool, especially when one is faced with painful decisions that are life-changing and unavoidable. Eliza White, a successful author/illustrator of children’s books, is faced with a familiar generational problem - an aging parent, in this case her mother, who is planning to move across the country to be nearer Eliza in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Since the death of her husband of fifty years, the seventy-eight-year-old widow has grown more frail, a source of worry for Eliza and her brother. Faced with her own empty nest syndrome, her three children off to college and her absentee husband dedicated to his work, Eliza seizes on her mother’s plea for help in sorting through years of accumulation to flee her Santa Fe home and return to the Midwest of her early years, there to be assaulted by unexpected memories.
Viewing her parents through an altered perspective, Eliza relives childhood issues and comes to terms with the responsibility of creating one’s own future. Challenged in all these areas, Eliza’s quest for attention from a distant father, the motivation of her adult choices, forces the forty-three-year-old to reexamine her hard-held beliefs. The battle is engaged, old issues revived in the sorting of memorabilia, including a revelation that her father had a secret he carried to his grave.
Her marriage plagued by a philandering husband, Eliza is an easy target for the affections of a very attractive single man, a neighbor who offers to help with the sorting and boxing of years of memories. This considerate stranger unexpectedly reawakens her passion for life. Her resentments flaring, Eliza breaks with her husband over the phone, his latest infidelity too much to bear with even a semblance of grace.
This facile resolution of marital conflict fails to meet the standards of a truly evolving woman, one who should address her difficulties on the home front before plunging into another relationship (Dr. Phil would not approve). There is one other problem with this novel: Eliza’s mother is seventy-eight and the daughter forty-three, certainly still prime time for a life change such as Eliza considers, not to mention her healthy income from her work.
By writing this character young and still attractive and offering an easy solution to her romantic difficulties, the author sidesteps the very real issues of mid-life divorce, creating instead a romantic fantasy, Eliza’s future hardly dismal. This is escapist fiction and enjoyable for that reason; expect romance, not inspiration, as Eliza overcomes her mid-life woes.