Under the Influence; Joyce Maynard
Under the Influence is a hard book to review without giving away too much info, but I'll try my best.
Sometimes when your life begins to spiral out of control, the sympathetic ear of a new friend may seem like the bright spot in those otherwise dark days. This was the case for Helen, a 30-something mom of Ollie whose husband has left her for another woman.
Helen's self-esteem is low, so to feel less anxious she begins to cap off each evening with a glass or two of wine (occasionally a bottle) once Ollie goes to sleep. One evening after polishing off an entire bottle something happens which causes her life to become even sadder and darker. It is during these dark days that she meets the Havillands, a charismatic couple who seems to love coming to the aid of the underdog. The couple rescues stray dogs and has even started a foundation for strays as well.
Ava and Swift Haviland are a wealthy couple with a beautiful home. Ava, who is in a wheelchair, meets Helen at an art show and quickly draws her into their lives. The Havillands shower Helen with gifts and include her in their circle, even hiring her to do various jobs for them. At times they overstep their bounds and give advice that isn't always in Helens best interest but, with her confidence so low she often finds herself listening to them and following their lead. The couple makes Helen feel safe and they have a way of making her feel dependent on them, but what is their motivation, if any?
"Just having a man like Swift speak my name made me feel important. For the first time in my life possibly"
As I quickly turned the pages of this novel, I felt this sense of dread. It felt as if something terrible would soon happen to one of the characters. I was not expecting the story to play out as it did and, for the most part I was pleased by the way it ended.
Helen is a sympathetic character but, at times she made me mad. She blew off one of her friends and then another one once she fell under the spell of Ava and Swift. The Havillands came across as an off-putting, manipulative couple. The author, as always, has created situations which felt realistic. She easily drew me into the story and the world of the characters. Be sure to try this one.