Two families have lived next door to each other for the past ten years. Emily Dobbs and Marcie Carter are best friends; their children are close in age and become best friends as well. While their husbands don't get along as wonderfully as the two women and the kids, the families often socialize with each other. Their lives are almost intertwined, the families flitting in and out of each otherís homes on a daily basis.
The story begins as a young shy college student comes forward and accuses a popular superstar college athlete of raping her during a date. What shocks those who hear about it is that the accused is Evan Carter, Marcie's oldest child, known to all as a polite, popular, and all-around good guy. He has never had a reputation of being disruptive in school, nor has he ever given his parents cause for concern. As the news of the alleged rape spreads throughout town, Marcieís husband shows his ugly side by helping to paint a smear campaign against the accuser. With Evanís good reputation and popularity, it isnít difficult to convince most people that heís innocent. But what if there is a side of him that his parents and family have not seen?
The accusation is one matter, but what Emily notices is how this news has affected her daughter, Dani. Emily suspects that Dani has always had a crush on the older boy, but can't understand why her daughter is as upset as she is. Dani is behaving in a radically different manner, and it doesn't make sense. She retreats more often to her room and talks back to her mother, and her close friendship with Marcie's daughter, Caitlyn, is falling apart. Emilyís first instinct is to blame it on teenage hormones, but the more she thinks about it, the more worried she becomes. Something is wrong. The only one who seemed to be the least affected is Emily's son, Josh. While Josh and Evan used to be the best of friends as children, the two have drifted apart as they grew older, and Emily has never questioned it.
The alleged rape is starts the breakup of the long, close friendships between the families. Mending Fences is a long novel in which the incident of the alleged rape is just one of the storylines, but the author also chooses to go into detail about the two familiesí pasts and how they first met. We see how the two families deal with some rough times, such as Emilyís divorce and Marcieís difficult marriage. We also are shown how close the children become, almost to the point of being inseparable in the case of Caitlyn and Dani.
While there could have been some additional judicious editing, I did enjoy Mending Fences for its absorbing storyline. Itís a good character-driven book, and the author does a great job in creating these characters with realistic personalities and traits. The only thing that could have been different, other than the length of the book, is the ending, where things were resolved too quickly for me. I recommend Mending Fences to all who enjoy reading women's fiction.