"Even after nearly two decades of marriage, Oliver and Catherine Desplaines maintain their secrets. Oliver, an aging entrepreneur, has spent his life looking for the next opportunities in business and in love. Catherine is his third wife, closer in age to his estranged daughters, and he's just fallen giddily, yet again, for an even younger woman.
"Catherine herself is seemingly placid and conent, supporting Oliver's career and heaping affection on their pet corgis, but she has ghosts of a past she scarcely remembers. When her best friend from high school dies, Catherine learns she is the namesake, and now guardian, of a missing teenage girl. Another specter of her adolescence has also risen: the notorious serial killer BTK (Bind, Torture, and Kill) is taunting Wichita police and boosting local news ratings after years of silence.
"In this time of hauntings and new revelations, the Desplaines grapple with their public and private obligations, their former selves, and uncertain ambitions. The couple, their past and future family members, and even the domesticated animals that circle them face the continuous choice between the suppression and indulgence of wild desires. Which way they turn, and what balance they find, may only be determined by those who love them most."
"The dog had two impulses. One was to stay with the car, container of civilization, and the other was to climb through the ruined window into the wild."
Really wish I hadn't gotten too busy with Real Life to do this one justice, because this was a deceptively short book with a big impact and lot to think about. Really interesting characters here; I was all set to think Oliver, who's not only addicted to ever-younger trophy wives and girlfriends (his latest paramour, who we expect to replace Catherine by the book's end, is dubbed only Sweetheart, with no name or identity of her own), but willing to blow off a promise to visit his disabled mother-in-law in a nursing home while Catherine's out of town, was a complete heel, when Nelson surprised me by having him visit Grace (Catherine's 70-something mother, a former Women's Studies professor now enfeebled by a stroke) and relate to her with unexpected empathy and tenderness. As the title suggests, the novel seems to focus on themes of how our relationships and obligations to others -- particularly those who are weaker than we are, whether that's a frail elderly person, an orphaned teenager, a stray dog, or a willfully dependent spouse -- define us. For those interested in subtle, nuanced stories about love, marriage, and identity, this one's well worth a read.