There are many different types of "family novels" being written in
today's insular world, and sadly not all of them are worth reading.
There are those that read like personal memoirs --- maudlin
accounts of dysfunctional upbringings and unforgotten family rifts
that often sound like the author is using his or her writing to
work through psychological problems left over from childhood (i.e.
whining). There are also those that boast an overarching theory
about The State of The Contemporary Family and a ripped-apart value
system without really delivering a graspable narrative. And then
there are those that, despite their minor flaws, deliver an
amicable mix of engrossing story and "state-of-things
philosophizing" so that by the time the book has concluded, its
readers feel that they not only have had an entertaining and
informative look-see into someone else's family life, but that they
have also realized a thing or two about their own.
Man Booker-shortlisted and Whitbread-winning author Justin
Cartwright's latest offering is thankfully the latter of the three.
A slow-to-unfold yet rightfully deliberate stroll through the
contours of human suffering and a story that recognizes the
importance of hope as an offset to seemingly irreversible tragedy,
THE PROMISE OF HAPPINESS describes one family's pieced-together
attempt at redemption following a far-reaching misfortune that
threatens to break them apart permanently.
At 32, Juliet Judd is at the height of her life. She has a cheeky,
hip gallery-owner boyfriend, a gorgeous Upper East Side apartment,
an Oxford education and a prestigious job at the preeminent
Christie's in New York. In the midst of it all, she is convicted of
an alleged crime --- it is questionable whether she plays an active
part in it or not --- and is sentenced to what turns out to be
three years in prison. The fact that there were others responsible
for stealing and reselling the Tiffany's glass window is beside the
point, according to the court. She is the one who wrote the checks.
She is the one with the prestigious reputation. She is the one w