STARRED REVIEW
August 28, 2018

When tragedy strikes, who is to blame?

By Joanne Proulx

Proulx’s second novel opens an incisive window into the seemingly predictable lives of two upper-middle-class families that slowly unravel over one long year, following two calamitous events. Mia and Michael Slate are cruising into middle age—she’s a photographer, and he’s a partner in a money management firm with Peter Conrad, whom he’s known since high school.

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Proulx’s second novel opens an incisive window into the seemingly predictable lives of two upper-middle-class families that slowly unravel over one long year, following two calamitous events. Mia and Michael Slate are cruising into middle age—she’s a photographer, and he’s a partner in a money management firm with Peter Conrad, whom he’s known since high school.

At least Michael thought he was a partner, until one February evening when their lawyer arrives at the Slates’ door to tell them that when the company went through a restructuring process over a year earlier, Peter virtually “wrote Michael out” of their partnership. Michael knew his monthly share had been decreasing for a while, but he never looked into the details. Half a million in consulting fees have bypassed Michael and been funneled into Peter and his wife Helen’s personal account. Since Helen and Mia are best friends, and the Slates’ 17-year-old son, Finn, and the Conrads’ daughter have been buddies since childhood, Peter’s betrayal affects each member of both families.

This initiates the first real schism in the Slates’ marriage, for Mia is understandably angry and frustrated with Michael’s failure to monitor what was happening to their bottom line. But that same February evening, a much more tragic event occurs: Finn gets drunk at a neighbor’s party and passes out in the snow, and the temperature that night dips to 30 degrees below zero. He loses a hand to frostbite—and that loss reverberates throughout the rest of the novel. Who is to blame? Who feels guilty . . . and who wants revenge?

Finn withdraws from his parents, “loses” his prosthesis and skips six months of counseling appointments. Mia drifts further away from Michael, emotionally and sexually, and contemplates an affair. Michael escapes from home by means of nightly baseball practices with a homeless youth, an odd relationship that eventually leads to a violent act of revenge against Peter and his family.

Proulx deftly delves into the inner psyches of each of her flawed characters, bringing some level of understanding to their otherwise inexplicably bad choices. Her tale of the downward spiral experienced by these two families seems as real as if we were reading it in the newspaper or hearing it on the local news.

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We All Love the Beautiful Girls

We All Love the Beautiful Girls

By Joanne Proulx
Grand Central
ISBN 9781538712450

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