cover image Separate Beds

Separate Beds

Elizabeth Buchan, Viking, $26.95 (372p) ISBN 978-0-670-02236-6

The prolific Buchan (Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman) paints an achingly touching portrait of a marriage and family in crisis, hobbled by economic recession and long-buried emotions. For middle-class Londoners Annie and Tom Nicholson—she's a hospital administrator, he's a BBC exec —the abrupt departure of their eldest daughter, Mia ("I won't be forgiving you and Dad anytime soon," she writes), exposes more than the fissures between parents who've drifted apart. It puts unbearable strain on Mia's twin, Jake, a single parent with a foundering business, and sister Emily, a struggling writer. This good-natured, misguided family stumbles haplessly toward a breaking point when Tom loses his job, and Jake, baby Maisie, and Tom's mum, Hermione, all move in. Suddenly, what had seemed a well-tended life becomes threadbare and crowded with shared disappointment, fear, and need. Here's a textured, layered story of love that builds on trust, founders on lies, and then finally discovers something to believe in. Buchan masterfully captures the Nicholsons' personal story with her richly drawn characters—and makes it reflect all of our own frazzled—and salvageable—lives. (Jan.)