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Good Company


Good Company

After 20 years of marriage, actors Flora and Julian moved from New York to Los Angeles and finally achieved a comfortable living in their chosen careers. Flora has landed a voice part in an animated series, and Julian, who founded a theater company in New York --- named Good Company --- is playing a cop on TV.

As the novel opens, their only child, Ruby, is graduating from a private girls’ high school in LA. Flora prepares for the party that her best friend, Margot, plans to throw for Ruby that night when she comes up with the idea for a perfect gift --- finding and framing a specific photograph from Ruby’s childhood. She locates the photo in the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet in the garage --- it’s of five-year-old Ruby, along with Flora, Julian, Margot and her husband, David. But she can’t resist the urge to do a little purging while she’s there, which leads to her finding an envelope on the very bottom of the drawer. Its contents threaten to uproot everything she believed about her marriage: Julian’s original engraved wedding ring --- the one he claimed to have lost in a pond years ago during the summer that the picture was taken.

"We can recognize ourselves in these characters and their choices. The novel lives up to its name: it is good company."

From this unwelcome surprise, the novel unfolds in flashbacks, revealing the characters and their histories, then coming back to the present time, when Flora must suppress her rage for the duration of her daughter’s party. We are treated to detailed descriptions of young, aspiring theater professionals --- the auditions, the parties, the multiple menial jobs. Margot, Flora’s roommate back then, talks a reluctant Flora into going to a party where she meets Julian, who is handsome, engaging and equally smitten with her. After a couple of breakups, one over his infidelity, he finally swears loyalty to Flora and proposes marriage.

“I learned my lesson. There’s nobody else for me, Flora.”
“It’s the one thing I won’t ever forgive,” she told him. “I know,” he said.

And yet, after the graduation party, back home in their kitchen, Flora confronts him with the ring and Julian confesses. Ruby goes to Spain with her boyfriend, leaving her parents to deal with the painful aftermath. And Flora must reconsider who she is, with or without her charming husband.

Upon this framework hangs an artful novel full of well-drawn characters, with believable whims and quirks that draw our sympathy, and sometimes our smiles. Here’s Flora, hiding out in Margot’s bedroom at the party, ruing the high-heeled sandals that were killing her feet, hoping that age will cure her vanity: “Wouldn’t that be nice, if the fifties offered her freedom from all the habits she’d developed to compensate for her self-ordained physical shortcomings: the too-high heels; the preponderance of slimming black; the Spanx. How was it that at the same time women were being told it was no longer fashionable or necessary to wear nylon stockings, an entire new bondage industry rose in its wake?”

We learn about Julian’s tumultuous childhood, Margot’s angst over her own acting career, and David’s early stroke that cost him his surgical brilliance. The emotional descriptions are sharpened by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s droll writing: “Last night had been bad, but he knew it was the amuse-bouche of rage.”

We can recognize ourselves in these characters and their choices. The novel lives up to its name: it is good company.

Reviewed by Eileen Zimmerman Nicol on April 9, 2021

Good Company
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

  • Publication Date: March 29, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco
  • ISBN-10: 0062876015
  • ISBN-13: 9780062876010