Gabby and Elliott are the kind of couple their friends openly envy. They live comfortably in suburban Connecticut with their two lovely daughters, 11 and 16. Elliott is a successful doctor, and Gabby is just starting to think about turning her passion for restoring and refinishing old furniture into a modest business. They are still just as much in love as they were when they met, even though Gabby is now in her mid-40s and hardly the slim young thing Elliott fell for.
Sometimes, though, Gabby has a hard time thinking about herself as anything but a middle-aged wife and full-time mother. That all changes, though, when, during a "girls' night" with her friends, Gabby gets chatted up at the bar by a younger man. And not just any younger man --- Matt is the founder of the latest social networking site, a self-made millionaire with a house on the beach and a surfer's body and tanned good looks to go with it.
"Green...clearly understands the pressures and perils of middle age in suburbia (or anywhere, really).... [Her] overall themes of self-respect, acceptance and forgiveness shine through..."
He seems genuinely interested in Gabby, and although nothing happens that night, the two begin a flirtation via email and text that threatens to turn into something more. Meanwhile, Gabby is neglecting her daughters' needs and turning her attention away from her husband and friends, instead thinking constantly about Matt and how to make herself into the kind of woman he would desire if he were ever to return to New England.
Jane Green's previous novel, FAMILY PICTURES, dealt with a very different sort of infidelity --- in that case, a man kept separate families on opposite sides of the country. Here, Green's focus is on the kinds of pressures and perceived deficits that lead people to turn away from everything good in their lives. Gabby's story effectively shows that, in many cases, infidelity has very little to do with satisfaction with one's partner and everything to do with dissatisfaction with oneself.
Gabby is a complicated character, and not everyone will like her or respect her decisions. Some may feel that, if the novel is a kind of morality play, Gabby fails to get what's coming to her. Others, though, may recognize a bit of themselves in Gabby --- if not the impetus to cheat on one's spouse, then the ability to at least understand the impulse to flirt with a handsome stranger at the end of a long day. Regardless of one's viewpoint, it's undeniable that TEMPTING FATE will give friends and book groups plenty to chew on.
Green, who started her career writing single-girl chick-lit like JEMIMA J, has seen her topics mature along with herself and her readers. She clearly understands the pressures and perils of middle age in suburbia (or anywhere, really). At times, TEMPTING FATE gets a tad sloppy --- better editing could have eliminated or at least cut down on some repetition, and the small sections from Elliott's viewpoint seem forced --- but Green's overall themes of self-respect, acceptance and forgiveness shine through regardless.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on March 28, 2014
- Publication Date: November 4, 2014
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
- ISBN-10: 0312604181
- ISBN-13: 9780312604189