cover image Private Means

Private Means

Cree LeFavour. Grove, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8021-4888-9

Cookbook writer LeFavour (Fish) follows a married New York City couple’s deteriorating relationship in this lackluster tale. Peter, a psychoanalyst, and Alice, an academic in search of her next grant, have become empty-nesters upon the departure of their twin daughters. Left alone with their tension, the couple stops sharing a bed. Then their dog, Maebelle, goes missing, and Alice’s search for her irritates Peter. Each grapples with what is left of their relationship over the course of a summer, which takes them from the city to friends’ summer homes, including an idyllic colonial in the Hudson Valley, where their visit is marred by the still-missing dog. In a support group for those who’ve lost their dogs, Alice meets a man who understands her; Peter, meanwhile, indulges in fantasies about a young patient. While LeFavour leans on clichés about the male and female psyches, and on the awkward tic of starting too many sentences the same way (“Running,” “Focusing,” “Trying,” “Waiting”), the narrative credibly shows how the characters are driven from the confines of their relationship by their desires. In the end, LeFavour misses the mark in this middling domestic tale. (Aug.)