“ Genre: Crime / Thriller / Author: Pamela Morsi / Paperback / 376 Pages / Book is published 2010-04 by Mira Books „
Jane Lofton has been married to David for nearly twenty years and she's used to turning a blind eye to his little affairs, and communicating with her college-aged daughter through her shrink. When you're originally from the wrong side of the tracks, being married to one of the sons of an elite family and having membership of the local country club means everything and ignoring your husband's little pecadillos is a small price to pay for maintaining the lifestyle she's come to enjoy. However, when David tells Jane he wants a divorce, she drives off into the night and has a potentially fatal car accident. She's rescued by Chester Durbin, a resident of a local old folks' home close to the accident site, and following her recovery from the shock of the crash and David's devastating request for a divorce, she begins to view her life from a very different perspective. It's time she put her metaphorical house in order and do some good with her life, but she discovers that doing good isn't quite as easy as she'd anticipated.
Pamela Morsi began her writing career by producing historical romances. They weren't exactly run-of-the-mill romances though but were quirky stories of late nineteenth century rural America featuring leading protagonists who didn't quite fit the usual mould for romantic heroes and heroines. For anyone who enjoys entertaining stories with plenty of feel-good factor, I highly recommend these early books.
Like many other romantic novelists before her, Pamela Morsi decided to progress her writing career by leaving the romance genre behind and trying her hand at women's fiction instead and this book was the first of her contemporary novels that I'd read. Just as with her earlier historical romances, I loved it. It not only tells a great story but proves conclusively that Ms Morsi can turn her hand to other genres whilst retaining that light and humorous touch which has always been her trademark style.
Jane initially comes across as a somewhat shallow forty-something woman whose life is going to hell in a hand basket but who's determined to keep hold of what she's got even though it's going bad. She's had the odd nip and tuck to keep the wrinkles at bay but it seems these embellishments can't keep her husband faithful. As the novel progresses we get glimpses of her early life which explain much of her motivation for marrying David to begin with and also why she's grimly hung on to a marriage which though not quite dead yet is pretty comatose.
Likewise, David, her husband isn't someone that the reader can completely dislike despite his infidelities. Poor David has been manipulated his entire life, first by his parents and later by his wife and his previous flings have always been just that but he's always returned to the marital fold. This time, however, he's genuinely in love.
David just wants to do the right thing by everybody. In fact, he's something of a people pleaser and the reader can see that he and Jane are totally unsuited. At the same time, one can't help but wish he'd develop some backbone instead of letting his wife and mother ride roughshod him. The young woman he's fallen for is the first woman who has genuinely loved David for himself rather than what he can offer them in return.
This story isn't just about David and Jane's marital breakdown, however, it also touches on inter-family relationships and true friendship but most especially about being true to oneself and helping others. For Jane it's something of a steep learning curve. As soon as people discover just how rocky Jane's marriage really is, she finds her country club membership rescinded and the women she'd long regarded as her friends desert her. With her rather fragile daughter away at university and deeply involved with her therapist, Jane is truly having to rely on her own resourcefulness, with a little help from Chester.
One of the best parts of the book is the relationship which develops between Jane and her life saver, Chester. Chester is a frail man of seventy-eight and both of them find it hard to explain how he found the physical strength to pull her from the wreckage of her car. Jane begins visiting Chester who lives a pretty solitary life in the care home and his philosophy helps her come to terms with her marriage and how she wants to take her life forward. She may have lost David to his blonde bimbo but in Chester Jane gains a true friend. In many ways, Chester takes on the parental role that has been missing all Jane's life. His wise words and philosophy of life gently guide Jane through her first steps towards her new independence
The one character in the story that I couldn't really warm to was Jane and David's daughter, Brynn, who comes across as a very brittle girl, lacking any affection for her mother and who puts all her faith into her therapist. Though it's pretty obvious that she's the way she is because of her strained relationship with her mother and her slightly distant father, I found it hard to like her anything about her character.
This novel was originally published as The Social Cliimber of Davenport Heights, which certainly describes Jane in her early incarnation. Subsequent editions of this book were published under the title Doing Good and Jane certainly tries her level best to do just that.
I really enjoyed this story and it has reawakened my appreciation for Pamela Morsi's writing style. This book may be easy reading but carries a moral message and though the story takes place in America, the dilemmas that Jane has to face are ones that can be easily identified with on this side of the Atlantic as well.
Copies can be picked up online from 1p.