Family Practice is almost too close to mainstream women's fiction to
be a comfortable read. Yes, it has the obligatory HEA, but getting there is
a painful, cathartic experience for the characters and the reader.
In the prologue we meet Polly and Michael Forsythe, who have just endured a
parent's worst nightmare. Their lovely nine-year-old daughter Susannah died
nine days ago. Polly, who's been considering suicide, is begging Michael
to admit her into the psychiatric ward. She's pleading for something to
ease her pain and loss. Michael, a doctor, is almost at a loss on how to
help her. He can barely help himself. He's holding on by increasing his
patient load, trying to obliterate his pain with exhaustion.
The story begins fourteen months later. Polly and Michael share the same
house, but are almost strangers. Polly, who wants to hold onto Susannah's
memory by talking about her, finds that Michael is a brick wall. He won't
discuss Susannah. He's working longer hours, while Polly fritters away her
time by shopping. And more shopping. Her life is empty, shallow and she
doesn't give a damn.
The first event that jars them from their vacuous existence is the loss of
their savings and investments. Michael's business manager has absconded
with most of their money. Michael doesn't want to tell Polly. He knows that
she has little else in her life.
The second event, more jarring, is the arrival of four-year-old Clover, the
daughter of a handyman who was injured while working for Polly's mother.
With no one to keep the child, Polly becomes her babysitter. Polly, whose
life is one big empty shopping expedition, immediately misses her freedom,
although she was doing nothing of substance before Clover came.
Polly thinks that Clover is an unappealing child, so unlike the lovely
Susannah that Polly immediately dislikes her. And it is mutual. Clover is a
brat around Polly, but turns into an angel with anybody else, most
especially Michael. The underlying cause of Polly's despair is the constant
torment that a little cipher like Clover is alive, yet her beloved Susannah
Clover is the real catalyst that causes Michael and Polly to begin to see
how their treatment of each other and themselves has deteriorated into
nothingness. Michael is such an enabler that Polly has followed his lead
and not approached anything head on.
The possibility of Polly getting a job is never considered. To economize,
she cleans her own home. When Michael finally states that they'll have to
sell their home, she pitches a hissy fit. No, this is Susannah's home,
Family Practice has a realism that drew me into the story. What
happened to Michael and Polly does happen to everyday people who face a
tragedy. Communication does break down. Sex becomes lackluster or even an
obligation. Lack of true purpose becomes an issue. That's exactly what
happens to Polly and Michael. I found it painful to read. These two love
each other, yet are unable to express that love.
Many readers enjoy stories that are darker, more complex, more angst-laden.
This one is all three. It's good at what it does. While I can't say that I
enjoyed the story, I did appreciate it. And it was hard to put down.
Just be aware that Family Practice deals with terrible loss and
takes a painful, realistic look at emotional healing. If that premise
sounds like something you'd be interested in, grab this book.