Elinor Mackey has always succeeded. She excelled in college and blossomed in law school. She married Ted, a handsome and successful podiatrist and a loving and supportive husband. But now Elinor is having trouble accepting the first and only failure in her life --- the failure to have a baby.
After two years of temperature-taking and endless IVF treatments, her once rock-solid marriage is beginning to suffer. She learns that Ted is having an affair with his personal trainer, Gina, a young woman with an incredible figure and a 10-year-old son. This discovery sends Elinor running for her laundry room where she compulsively washes and folds clothes: "It's comforting to wash and fold clothes --- a task that's easy to complete. She runs small unnecessary loads, just to be lulled by the sound of the dryer. She especially likes the clinking of buttons and zippers --- a metal-against-metal metronome that brings calm as she stares into the blue screen of her laptop, never actually doing any work."
Ted has been grappling with his own despair over the situation, too. Perhaps embarking on an affair was the quick-fix and the wrong way to ultimately handle the situation, but he feels totally left out of the equation when it comes to Elinor and their struggle for children. It hurts him too, and Gina provided a soft (yet firm) place to land. He didn't count on falling for her or for making such an impression on her young son, so desperate for a father figure. Ted begins tutoring him in math, which only feeds young Toby's fantasies about him becoming his new dad.
When confronted by Elinor, Ted realizes he has been stupid and careless and breaks it off with Gina, who is hurt and chalks it up to her poor judgment when it comes to men. So, Elinor and Ted go to Dr. Brewster, their counselor, in an attempt to save their marriage. Can they succeed?
In this outing, Lolly Winston once again takes on a serious subject but infuses it with moments of levity and warmth. While the subject of infertility is not a new topic, Winston takes her readers through many twists and turns so no one knows quite where the story will end up. Although not as strong an endeavor as her earlier work, GOOD GRIEF, it does address a noteworthy issue. I wouldn't exactly recommend it to couples suffering with infertility (because it's a more realistic ending, not necessarily a happy one) but more for fans of Anita Shreve and Jodi Picoult.
Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on January 22, 2011
Happiness Sold Separately