by Tracey Garvis Graves
Published by Penguin Group / Dutton Adult
Genre: women's literature
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5
When I read On the Island, I fell in love with the way Tracy Garvis Graves writes. So I have been waiting to read her next endeavor, hoping that she would not suffer a sophomore slump.
While Covet may not have the depth and emotional appeal of On the Island, it nonetheless is an interesting, engrossing read.
It cannot be easy to write about the economy, if for no other reason than "economic downtown" and "riveting reading" seem somewhat like an oxymoron. But Graves does just that. Chris Canton lost his job over a year ago, and it took him twelve months to find a new one. During that time, his marriage to Claire suffered, despite their love for each other and the love they share for their children. Chris did what husbands do: he retreated, his focus solely on getting a job. Claire, meanwhile, was expected to maintain the family and the marriage, all by herself.
When we meet them, Chris has been with his new job for several months. It requires near constant travel from him, which leaves Claire not just emotionally alone but physically as well. When she is pulled over for a busted tail light and has an immediate attraction to the hot cop about to ticket her, we sympathize. She receives no affection from her husband, so of course she is wanting.
As Claire's friendship with Daniel Rush, the hot cop, takes off, her marriage remains stagnant. We know Chris loves her and misses her, and we know that he wants to reestablish their marriage, but he has no idea how lonely she is. Daniel, for his part, is viscerally attracted to Claire. Not only does she resemble his ex-wife, she also is interesting and comforting. He likes her, and she begins to like him. But Claire can't have both men. At some point, she will need to choose.
Graves peppers her story with minor characters whose lives are as fractured as Chris and Claire's. Two sets of neighbors are threatened by addiction, and a third struggles with infertility. When you are under assault by a fragile economy, you seek control and comfort over something, whether booze or pregnancy or a new friendship.
One of the better things Graves accomplishes here is that she makes us sympathize with Claire, Chris, and Daniel. We find ourselves wishing that all three will be happy, even that Claire will find a way to be with both. Daniel is a good guy; he gives Claire what she needs at a time when she is desperate to have it. He behaves with dignity and class. Chris, too, is a good man. His heartbreak over being away from his family is real and evident, even if he mistakenly attempts to shoulder more of the stress than he should. As for Claire, we do not want her to lead Daniel on, nor do we want her to be unfaithful to Chris. That Graves could so wonderfully craft characters that leave us trapped in this paradox is admirable.
For all of that, though, there are issues. The friends are somewhat too cookie cutter-ish, and for all of the time we spend with them, we need more from them. The ending is a bit too neat, although I am grateful to not be left frustrated.
Read, enjoy, and revel in Tracy Garvis Graves' ability to write a good story.