Paula Treick DeBoard’s engrossing fourth novel is both a perceptive character study and a timely portrait of the unquestioned power that many in political office feel is theirs, merely as part of the election process.
DeBoard introduces her central characters as they become roommates during their freshman year at Keale College in Connecticut: Lauren is the daughter of a U.S. senator from Connecticut and his wife, the heir to a small island off the coast of Maine where the family spends part of each summer, and Megan is from a middle-class family in a small Kansas town. Megan intended to enroll as Kansas State University, but after her father dies of mesothelioma, his insurance pays for her to go out of state—and she discovers Keale, a private women’s college where the insurance will just cover four years’ tuition.
Megan realizes soon after her arrival on campus how different her life has been from that of her classmates—girls who went to the same prep schools and summer camps, who took private tennis lessons and spent their summers on the Cape. But somehow small-town Megan and daughter-of-a-senator Lauren become fast friends, spending hours sharing secrets and their hopes for the future. Lauren praises Megan’s writing endeavors, and Megan in turn encourages Lauren’s newfound love of photography—the only thing that really motivates her, despite her mother’s constant push toward law or medicine.
Lauren invites Megan to the family home for Christmas their sophomore year—and then again the summer before their senior year, when Megan spends five weeks on the family’s private island, accompanied for the last week by Lauren’s older sister, Kat, and brother, Michael, just out of law school.
DeBoard deftly moves back and forth in time between the girls’ college years and the week in October 2016—14 years later—when Megan finally tells the truth about what happened to her the last night she spent on the island. That horrific event changed her life completely and severed her bond with Lauren. DeBoard adds this element of suspense over the final outcome to her insightful and emotional portrayal of these two young women—a story highly recommended to readers who enjoy novels by Anita Shreve and Jacquelyn Mitchard.