Francesca Woodbridge is spying on her former life -- a recent lover, a wounded husband, and a rapidly changing America. "One morning I stood on the back deck of our handsome house and I realized that my interior self, the self I did not present to the world or even to those closest to me, seemed to have burned out." So confesses Francesca Woodbridge, the narrator of Deirdre McNamer's remarkable new novel. As her feelings recede "from the visceral to the archival," Francesca rekindles herself with plans for a garden, which lead to a lover -- her Russian gardener, an exile from Chernobyl. Now Francesca is supposedly in Greece with a tour group, but she is actually living in disguise just blocks from where her husband, Ren, and her teenage son await her return. Ren, a lawyer, is recovering from a gunshot wound inflicted some months earlier by a mysterious intruder. Francesca moves unnoticed through the town she calls home, seeing it with "the seizing eyes of a traveler," as Cynthia Ozick once put it. Her memories have a similar hyperclarity. She tells a series of stories that traverse the past four decades, beginning with her childhood in a wheatlands town overlooking missiles aimed at Russia. Her voice is searching, specific, unsparing, and sometimes darkly funny. In the process of listening, we learn who shot her husband, a modest mystery that rests on a larger one: for a woman like Francesca Woodbridge, at the end of this particular century, what is a fully lived life?
About Deirdre McNamer
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Published June 4, 1999
by Houghton Mifflin.
Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense.