Comments: First, Lucy Shoreman learned that her older, terminally-charming husband Artie had been cheating on her for most of their marriage, and even before, so she walked out. Then, while she was gone and trying to figure out what to do next, she learned that the terminally-charming Artie was also terminally ill and didn't have much time left, so she came home - reluctantly, and still angry and confused, but she and Artie still have unfinished business. That business includes one more thing Artie has to tell her; he has grown son he's been supporting for over thirty years, but has never met. He also has quite a little black book full of "sweethearts," and Lucy starts wondering whether they should be let in on the news that Artie's days are numbered. One night, drunk and desolate, she makes a few calls - and a couple of the sweethearts show up in response.
Bridget Asher's novel works from a premise that intrigues me - the bonds between women who don't have much in common other than a man. Lucy doesn't expect the makeshift family that develops between her, her mother, and a couple of the sweethearts. And when she decides that Artie and his son should get to know each other before it's too late, she doesn't expect what develops there either.
This is the sort of character-driven novel that I tend to prefer, but I think I'd have liked more from it. I felt like the book was too short to develop some of the characters enough, and the subplot involving Elspa, one of the sweethearts, just didn't grab me - it seemed too pat. I liked Lucy, though - her anger and confusion, and her attempts to deal with them, felt real. (As an aside, I also liked that she worked as an auditor - we need more accountants in women's fiction, I say!) The later chapters of the book felt rushed and resolved a bit too neatly, and I wasn't entirely satisfied with the ending. However, I thought Asher did well in her depiction of how complex and surprising relationships can really get, and how they raise dilemmas that don't have simple responses.
This was a smart and engaging novel that gets under the surface of its people - but not too deeply - and it's a pretty quick, enjoyable read.