Using a phrase from a macabre mystery movie, Ann Leary lulls the reader into a suspenseful family drama in The Children. The tale of the blended Whitman family follows a seemingly routine path, as Leary introduces the quirks of each character, but like all her stories, Leary always has hidden and surprising twists.
Charlotte Maynard, the reclusive narrator, writes a blog about life as a harried housewife with problem children; she does so well she has acquired sponsors who pay her to post everyday. Charlotte is a fraud. She is not married, has no children, and successfully plays on the anonymity and possibilities of the internet and vulnerable users.
Although Charlotte’s mendaciousness sets the tone for all the other characters, Leary carefully keeps their facades in tact until almost the end of the book. All have secrets: Laurel, the too perfect girlfriend; Sally, the talented but disturbed sister; Spin, the likable step-brother and heir to the estate; Everett, boyfriend and dog whisperer.
The story revolves around familiar themes – old money, New England family, and greed. After Whit Whitman dies, his second wife and her daughters live on in the lakefront estate; however, his sons own the estate, with a provision in the family trust that allows their step-mother to stay. When Spin, the youngest brings his fiancé home, cracks start to appear in the family relationships, with resentments and old wounds threatening to bring down the house with humor and intrigue.
If you enjoyed Leary’s The Good House (soon to be a film with Meryl Streep), you will like The Children – an easy and enjoyable read with some well-appreciated subliminal thoughts on real estate lust and computer hacking.
Related Review: The Good House