3 New Novels About “Nice” Couples With Dark Secrets
The perfect veneer. The Stepford wife. The trophy husband. Those smiling couples with white, straight teeth and adorable children, high-powered jobs and a big house in the suburbs. The ones who spend every day in idyllic, beautiful goodness. Aren’t they just terrible? The three couples in this week’s book club seem to have it all, but a particular series of incidents has propelled them toward the dark side. Each pair shares a terrible secret, and some even keep them hidden from each other.
Our narrator’s lovely wife Millicent has flaming red hair and eyes so green they look almost translucent when she looks at their two children. She’s a real estate agent, and he’s a tennis instructor at the local country club, never quite good enough to turn pro. They don’t quite make as much as their wealthiest friends, but they don’t let it bother them — much. But when the spice briefly starts to go out of their 15-year marriage, they find out only one thing seems to bring it back, and it’s not a thing you can really talk about in public. But while talking about most other marital aids would likely just offend some sensibilities, their secret could easily land them in jail.
“I type, ‘Should I see a therapist?’ A popular Google search, it seems. There’s a lot of information on the topic. Pages and pages of tests you can take to help you decide if therapy is right for you. If so, what kind of therapy? Psychiatrist versus psychologist? What’s your major disorder? There’s so much. I could do this all night. Once Ian leaves, maybe I will…I start scrolling through the quizzes. Some are straightforward. Tick the box yes or no. You are anxious or scared about a lot of things in your life. Okay, yes. You are scared that you are going to lose control, go crazy or die. All three! You sometimes feel like your mind is possessed by another person or creature. Umm, no. But that sounds fun. You believe there is something wrong with the way you look. I can’t help but chuckle silently. Oh my gosh. They should get a load of me.”
Willard Park is a posh suburb of DC that has 100-year-old houses, local, non-chain stores, and a charming, idyllic feel to it. That is, until the White Elephant shows up. The White Elephant, a déclassé monster home, announces its presence loudly and obscenely. Allison and Ted Miller live next to architect Nick Cox’s monstrosity of a property that towers over the surrounding area; Ted’s protests are unable to stop progress. Things reach an uneasy détente, and then Nick does the unthinkable: He cuts down the red maple that Ted planted for his daughter’s birth. Lines are drawn, factions are made, and the small suburban community seems about to tear itself to pieces.