What if the life you wanted, and the woman you fell in love with, belonged to someone else?
Chris and Claire Canton’s marriage is on life support. Downsized during the recession and out of work for a year, Chris copes by retreating to a dark place where no one can reach him, not even Claire. When he’s offered a position that will keep him away from home four nights a week, he dismisses Claire’s concern that time apart could be the one thing their fragile union can’t weather. Their suburban life may look idyllic on the outside, but Claire has never felt so disconnected from Chris, or so lonely.
Local police officer Daniel Rush used to have it all, but now he goes home to an empty house every night. He pulls Claire over during a routine traffic stop, and they run into each other again at the 4th of July parade. When Claire is hired to do some graphic design work for the police department, her friendship with Daniel grows, and soon they’re spending hours together.
Claire loves the way Daniel makes her feel, and the way his face lights up when she walks into the room. Daniel knows that Claire’s marital status means their relationship will never be anything other than platonic. But it doesn’t take long before Claire and Daniel are in way over their heads, and skating close to the line that Claire has sworn she’ll never cross.
“I don’t regret a single minute that we spent together,” he says.
“Neither do I.”
How do you define cheating? Is it any physical act? A more blatantly sexual one? What about connecting emotionally with someone who isn’t your spouse or significant other? If you’re not getting the affection and emotional support from your spouse or significant other, can you be faulted for finding it elsewhere? I’ve always had pretty cut and dry feelings about what constitutes infidelity, but this book made me question them. I was all over the place while reading this one.
“I wonder how many marriages are fractured and damaged beyond repair by complacency rather than any single traumatic event. One day you wake up and realize that the distance between you and your spouse has grown to such an enormous width that neither of you are capable of clearing the distance. No matter how much speed you build up, or how far you can jump, it’s just there. Gaping and unforgiving.”
Chris and Claire’s marriage was on the verge of falling apart. Chris was struggling to make a name for himself at his new job by working a ridiculous schedule. As the book goes on, you learn that Chris had been let go from his previous job and struggled with depression while searching for a new job. That led to medicine for the depression, which in turn led to being unable to be intimate with Claire.
“By all appearances, we’re the ideal suburban family. As long as you don’t look too closely.”
I tend to have a hard time connecting with a book about a “regular life” I can’t identify with. I didn’t have that problem with this book. I may not be married with children and living in the suburbs, but I felt like I was. This author’s writing sucks you into the book. You feel more like a part of it than an observer. The suburban setting, the neighbors – all with their own unique set of problems – all felt so real. I loved that the book was written from the perspectives of Claire, Chris and Daniel. I think that’s what gave me the most insight into each of the characters. The three voices came through very clearly.
I loved Claire. I could feel the pain she was going through and the internal struggle with her attraction to Daniel. I went from rooting for Claire and Chris to resolve their issues and come back together, to cheering her on with Daniel in the hopes that she could find happiness, regardless the cost, to wanting her to walk away from Daniel and fix her relationship with Chris. There were so many ups and downs throughout this story. I just wanted it to end with happiness for her.
At first I wasn’t very fond of Chris, but as the story went on and as I understood his feelings and his motivations, the more I connected to his character. He wasn’t trying to hurt Claire. He wanted to provide for his family, whatever the cost. The lack of communication with Claire was really frustrating, but his heart was in the right place. He was in over his head and trying to prove himself.
Ah, Daniel. The hot police officer. How can I not love him? He said and did all the right things. But, not in a disingenuous way. He wasn’t the bad guy trying to get into Claire’s pants. He was as conflicted about the feelings growing between them as she was. It’s hell wanting something you’re not allowed to want. I think we’ve all been there a time or two.
But, this story was about more than just Claire, Chris and Daniel. My heart broke for Jordan and Josh. They missed their dad. They’re too young to understand what was going on. The neighbors all had their own dramas. This was a case when the side characters were nearly as well-written and complex as the main ones.
“If things had been different, I would have given my whole heart to you.”
Now, obviously I won’t ruin the story for you. Just know that it was all handled beautifully. It wasn’t cheap. It wasn’t tawdry. There were real emotions in play here. Trust me, I think I felt every single one of them, from each of the three perspectives. Please don’t be discouraged from reading this book because of the feared infidelity. Give the book a chance. I don’t think you’ll be sorry you did.
This is not the type of book I typically gravitate towards, but after loving On the Island
as much as I did, I added it to my TBR list. When I saw it listed on NetGalley, I requested a review copy. I’m very glad I did.