You Are the Love of my Life by Susan Richards Shreve
Norton • $25.95 • ISBN 9780393082807
published August 20, 2012
Days after finishing this novel, I cannot get Susan Richards Shreve’s characters out of my head. Lucy and her two children have left New York and their (married to someone else) father behind to move to a close-knit community in Washington D.C., against the backdrop of the Watergate scandal. But it’s not quite that simple. Lucy has never told her children who their father is, referring to him as their “uncle,” and the house to which they have moved is the same house Lucy’s father committed suicide in years before.
Lucy has changed her last name and hidden her past, but in a community this nosy, secrets are bound to become uncovered. Her lies drive a wedge between Lucy and her daughter, not to mention Lucy’s neighbor, who is writing a book about her father’s suicide.
Shreve weaves each strand of this community together impeccably, as a neighborhood addicted to secrets is forced to experience the freedom of truth. The novel ends hopefully but not idealistically, as the characters deal with the consequences of exposed truth, both positive and devastating.
Here’s an excerpt:
Driving north on Connecticut Avenue, past the shops in Chevy Chase, D.C., Wichita Hills sat on an actual hill, a cluster of houses gathered close together on small plots of land. A subdivision really with individual houses, more accidental in design than planned, and in the last year of Richard Nixon’s presidency with Watergate the most conspicuous of Washington’s monuments, Witchita Hills was self-consciously democratic and middle class, a look of studied poverty about the place suggesting, or so it was assumed among the residents, a new intellectual freedom with responsibility born of the sixties.
A kind of abandon in the way families kept their houses–unlocked doors, clutter in the yards, porches with toys and strollers, baseball bats and bicycles, the winter remains of bright and messy gardens where tomatoes and green beans and zucchini scrambled for space in garden plots often in the front yard.
It had glitter in the way a place can take on its own aura for no particular reason. Which in this case had to do with community–a real place with real people was the word out on Wichita Hills. There was a post-sixties smugness about it–citizens with genuine social conscience in a time of national secrecy, openhearted citizens without judgments, an expectation that the families who lived there had a new moral superiority. One for All and All for One was the painted sign at the entrance to the community center on St. Louis Road.
Will you check out You Are the Love of my Life? What are you reading this week?