cover image Community Board

Community Board

Tara Conklin. Mariner, $27.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-295937-9

Conklin’s quirky but undercooked latest (after The Last Romantics) follows the travails of a brokenhearted woman as she returns to her Massachusetts hometown. Darcy Clipper, 29, works as a junior actuary and lives with her husband, Skip, in Boston. When Skip announces he’s leaving her, she retreats to Murbridge, hoping for a warm embrace from her parents. To her surprise, they’ve just relocated to Arizona, where they’re “trying out” a retirement community. Hunkered down in her parents’ house, she insists they come back, but after weeks of solitude, she reluctantly starts looking for work. Through some odd jobs, Darcy makes new friends like Marcus Dash-LaGrand; his husband, Dan; and their three kids. Newcomers to town, Marcus and Dan hope to build a playground and open their backyard to the children in the community, a plan that homophobe local Jake—who has his eyes on their property—tries to thwart. Coincidences and surprise revelations involving Jake’s scheming lead to a showdown at a town meeting, where the playground’s fate is decided. The plot is paper-thin and the tone too cutesy, but Conklin ably conveys Darcy’s state of arrested development, as well as her transition into a stronger person who strives to help her friends despite her anxieties. This is far from life-changing, but there’s fun to be had. (Mar.)