Tuesday, June 24, 2008

DOMESTIC AFFAIRS by EILEEN GOUDGE

Eileen Goudge sure knows what she's doing. In the world she creates everyone is driven--this one by a secret in her past so deep and horrible she's never told a soul, this one whose husband first betrays her and then kills himself, that one by the loss of her daughter in a sweatshop factory fire. Her landscapes, both exterior and interior, are lush and verdant--even, oddly enough, when she's describing a nightmare desert crossing by a group of Mexicans trying to enter the country illegally. And in the end you cry, because isn't that what a good melodrama is supposed to do?


Domestic Affairs is the story of three very different women, their personal tragedies and triumphs, and how their lives intersect and influence one another. Abigail Armstrong and Lila Meriwhether grew up like sisters. Although Abby's mother, Rosalie, was the Meriwhether family's housekeeper, Abby and Lila--and Lila's twin brother, Vaughn--were the best of friends. Until, that is, the fateful day when Rosalie's mother is falsely accused of stealing from the family she's taken care of for sixteen years, and she and Abigail are forced to leave the only home Abby's ever known.


Twenty five years later, Abigail Armstrong is an entrepeneur, a self made diva of the dinner party set who will show you how to prepare a five course meal, set the table, and get red wine stains out of the carpet. She's a driven woman--very Martha Stewart--whose public knows her as a beatific domestic goddess while her staff knows her as that woman's snappish evil twin. Lila DeVries, nee Meriwhether, is a New York society matron, married to a man recently convicted of financial misconduct who, within the first forty pages kills himself rather than face his disgrace. And Concepcion Delgado is a Mexican campesina whose daughter is killed in a fire that rages through the sweatshop where they are working overtime to get out the first line of mass produced linens for Abigail Armstrong's company.


Disgraced and nearly penniless, Lila DeVries is forced to look for work, but is shut down at every turn. What skills does a woman who's done nothing but organize parties and bake sales for the last twenty years have? And why would anyone want the media scrutiny inevitable if they hire a woman with a notorious name? Ultimately, and bizarrely, she ends up at the door to Abigail's estate in the country, and is hired as her housekeeper.


Meanwhile, Concepcion Delgado is making her way, first from Mexico to Los Angeles (where she does meet a nice man), then from L.A. to New York, in search of the woman responsible for the death of her beloved daughter. The ultimate confrontation between the two very different women is all that a reader could ask for...and more.


Coincidences pile up. More tragedies occur. There's cancer and suicide pacts. There's divorce and sexual abuse. There's reconciliation, redemption, and love. It's all here--everything and a bag of designer chips.


I'm happy to report that it's all tied up in a beautiful bow at the end..and yes, I really did cry.


And yes, I will read Eileen Goudge's next book.


What I'm reading now: The Finder, by Colin Harrison




Disclosure: In accordance with new FTC guidelines for bloggers I must let you know that I received a free review copy of this title.  My reviews are just that: reviews.  They are not endorsements, nor am I ever compensated for posting my opinion.  I am, however, an Amazon affiliate, which means that if you make a purchase from Amazon after clicking through a link on my site--even if you don't buy a title to which I've linked!--I will receive a small commission.

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