An unforgettable portrait of a man haunted by memories of the woman who got away_blended skillfully with a searing look at the role of art and memory in our times.
In a small, foundering town in central New York, Molly Howe grows up to be a seemingly ordinary but deeply charismatic young woman. As a teenager, she has an affair with a much older man — a relationship that thrills her at first, until the two of them are discovered, and she learns how difficult it can be to get away with such a transgression in a small town. Cast out by her parents, she moves in with her emotionally enigmatic brother, Richard, in Berkeley, California. At her lowest moment, she falls in with a young art student named John Wheelwright. Each of them believes — though for very different reasons — that this is the love that can save them. Then Molly, after being called home for a family emergency, disappears.
A decade later, John has gone on to a promising career at a "cutting edge" advertising agency in New York. He seems on a familiar road to success — until he wanders into the path of Malcolm Osbourne, an eccentric advertising visionary who decries modern advertising's reliance on smirking irony and calls for a popular art of true belief and sincerity. Toward this end, Mal founds — and invites John to join — a unique artists' colony-cum-ad agency called Palladio, in Charlottesville, Virginia. The risky, much-ridiculed venture brings them undreamt-of fame and influence. It also brings, literally to their door, Molly Howe.
In a triumph of literary ingenuity, Jonathan Dee weaves together the stories of this unforgettable pair, raising haunting questions about thesources of art, the pain of lost love, and whether it pays to have a conscience in our cynical age.
For readers of Jonathan Franzen and Richard Russo, Jonathan Dee’s novels are masterful works of literary fiction. In this sharply observed tale of self-invention and public scandal, Dee raises a trenchant question: what do we really want when we ask for forgiveness?
Once a privileged and loving couple, the Armsteads have now reached a breaking point. Ben, a partner in a prestigious law firm, has become unpredictable at work and withdrawn at home — a change that weighs heavily on his wife, Helen, and their preteen daughter, Sara. Then, in one afternoon, Ben’s recklessness takes an alarming turn, and everything the Armsteads have built together unravels, swiftly and spectacularly.
Thrust back into the working world, Helen finds a job in public relations and relocates with Sara from their home in upstate New York to an apartment in Manhattan. There, Helen discovers she has a rare gift, indispensable in the world of image control: She can convince arrogant men to admit their mistakes, spinning crises into second chances. Yet redemption is more easily granted in her professional life than in her personal one.
As she is confronted with the biggest case of her career, the fallout from her marriage, and Sara’s increasingly distant behavior, Helen must face the limits of accountability and her own capacity for forgiveness.
Smart, socially gifted, and chronically impatient, Adam and Cynthia Morey are so perfect for each other that united they become a kind of fortress against the world. In their hurry to start a new life, they marry young and have two children before Cynthia reaches the age of twenty-five. Adam is a rising star in the world of private equity and becomes his boss's protégé. With a beautiful home in the upper-class precincts of Manhattan, gorgeous children, and plenty of money, they are, by any reasonable standard, successful.
But the Moreys' standards are not the same as other people's. The future in which they have always believed for themselves and their children — a life of almost boundless privilege, in which any desire can be acted upon and any ambition made real — is still out there, but it is not arriving fast enough to suit them. As Cynthia, at home with the kids day after identical day, begins to drift, Adam is confronted with a choice that will test how much he is willing to risk to ensure his family's happiness and to recapture the sense that the only acceptable life is one of infinite possibility.