Other People's houses by Abbi Waxman

Waxman’s new release, following the highly praised The Garden of Small Beginnings, is a stand-alone story but features a few cameo appearances from Lili and her daughters, with Edward, from Garden.  Here we are treated to a small circle of neighbors who are connected by their children and a school carpool.  Frances is a stay-at-home mom who relishes the routine of the morning and afternoon carpool.  One morning she runs back to pick up forgotten homework and walks in on her neighbor, Anne, cheating on her husband.  This sparks a rise of insecurities among the other friends and neighbors in their own relationships. 

 

The beginning of the book provides a listing of all the families involved and has a small sketch of the neighborhood’s layout.  Much of the story is told by Frances, who is attempting to deal with a teenage daughter and process the snowball effect of Anne’s deception on those around her.  Iris is in a same-sex relationship with Sarah and desperately wants to have another baby.  Anne is devastated by the consequences of her affair. Other characters chime in and contribute to these interwoven plots. I started out reading and finished on audio.  The audio, read by Saskia Maarleveld,was well done considering the different voices. 

This was a fairly quick read with some laugh aloud moments, But I didn’t find it as enjoyable as Garden. The language was even more pervasive in this book, often times unnecessary, and some readers may find it distracting. There are some interesting insights and observations, particularly a conversation towards the end between Frances’ husband, Michael, and Anne’s husband, Charlie.  While it ends on a hopeful note, it dredges up a lot of sadness and anger surrounding Anne’s infidelity.  Garden did a better job of balancing the hard topic of loss and bereavement with humor.  Other People’s Houses tackles a variety of problems that arise in relationships and close-knit communities. Is what we present to others indicative of who we are or a cover for who we really are?  Book includes discussion questions.

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