The Transformation of Things
by Jillian Cantor
(Avon, $13.99, PG) ISBN 978-0-06-196220-2
****
A normal day turns into a nightmare when, during a routine hair salon appointment, Jennifer Levenworth sees her husband Will's picture splashed across the TV screen. Jen is horrified to learn that Will, the youngest judge elected to the bench in their suburban Philadelphia county, has just been indicted for bribery. Jen rushes home to her husband, but the distance that has sprung up between them in the three years since he became a judge prevents her from finding any answers or solace.

In a matter of weeks, Will has resigned from the bench in order to avoid a trial, and Jennifer has been ostracized by the wealthy women who were her tennis partners and charity auction committee members. Will takes a job with his brother-in-law's landscaping business and Jen finds some free-lance writing work. But they are no closer now than they were when Will toiled long hours and spent his minimal free time alone in his study, joining Jen only for brief joyless sex when she was ovulating. To make matters worse, Jen starts having vivid dreams about her friends and family members that seem to be providing glimpses into their genuine private lives. The secrets she learns about those closest to her make her re-examine her relationships and priorities, leading Jen to wonder if it's too late for her to transform her life.

Cantor shows a good ear for dialogue and some skill at characterization. Jen's mother died of breast cancer when Jen was only 13, and that loss has haunted her ever since. She is skittish in her relationships but not cold or selfish. Her struggle to move past her grief and rekindle her romance with Will is sometimes frustrating but ultimately tender and rewarding.

I was not surprised to learn that Cantor is the author of two Young Adult novels. In her first attempt at women's fiction she ladles on the lessons a little thick for anyone over the age of 16. I would hope that by now most of us have learned that you never really know what goes on in another couple's marriage, and that parenthood is both completely overwhelming and thoroughly rewarding. But these obvious lessons are wrapped up in an attractive package, and accompanied by an intriguing plot twist that is worthy of an M. Night Shyamalan movie.

When I'm struggling between giving a book 3 or 4 hearts, I ask myself how I would view the opportunity to read the author's next release. Although I found the novel's message to be a bit heavy-handed, I enjoyed Jillian Cantor's writing style enough to be curious about her next novel, so I'm going to award The Transformation of Things 4 hearts. You've heard this refrain before, but it doesn't hurt to have a reminder every once in a while.

--Susan Scribner


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