"I was married eleven years before I started imagining how different life could be if my husband were dead."
Jessie Kilgore Maddox, owner of those words, muses about the myriad ways in which her husband could be wrenched from her life. While she sleeps, as she drives, while out for a jog --- a variety of accident scenarios enters her head. At odds with the main character's obsession, A FALSE SENSE OF WELL BEING is a story about love, but it's not a love story. Inner conflicts abound throughout the lives of the Southern women with whom Jessie shares the pages.
Her closest friend, Donna, is having an affair with a young clerk from the store where she works and envisions future bliss with this young stud, callously abandoning her children and husband. Ellen, Jessie's older sister, teems with agitated dissatisfaction, having once again left her boring husband and whisked herself, her son, and a raucous flock of domestic birds home to mom and dad. Jessie's social work at the local mental health clinic does nothing to dispel her growing unease either. Her most famous client is Wanda McNabb, the town's newest battered wife to slay her abusive husband. While Jessie Maddox daydreamed about the demise of her spouse, Wanda took affirmative steps toward ridding herself of the huge obstacle to her own happiness. Unfortunately, the clinician crosses ethical boundaries with her most enigmatic and exciting patient while in search of understanding her personal discontent. A glimpse of the chasm between reality and perception sets her reeling.
In the midst of all this, she runs away, back to her parents' home for the weekend. There, the house is filled with a nephew she can barely tolerate, her mother who constantly spouts Bible verses and prays over every action, her father and his simple ways, her sister whose promiscuous escapades are not talked about in decent company, the aforementioned avian menagerie, and a resident poodle named Missy. For an average young woman, this wouldn't seem to be the most propitious environment in which to get one's head together, but surprising insights are arrived at in the two-day visit.
The ladies of A FALSE SENSE are imperfect, sometimes despicable, personalities who stumble with a crippling malaise in an effort to find their way back to where they want to be. First, however, is the need to identify just where that is. In this novel of internal struggles, the women face the disappointment of everyday routine, of hopes not realized, and of grand dreams reduced to life size. Learning what brings them happiness doesn't come easily to them. You'll laugh and you'll cry and you'll agree that this new Southern voice in fiction is loud and compelling.
Jeanne Braselton has done a stunning job of creating complex characters in this slice-of-life tale of pre-midlife restlessness. Written in a gentle style, full of flowing prose, with a subtle dry humor infused in the dialogue and even more so in the author's asides. Peppered with embarrassing vignettes and poignant scenes, this first novel reveals as much about a talented author as her subjects. Sit back with a glass of wine before a roaring fire and lose yourself in some head-shaking introspection.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on October 1, 2001
A False Sense of Well Being