cover image Those We Love Most

Those We Love Most

Lee Woodruff. Hyperion/Voice, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4013-4178-7

Woodruff’s first novel (after the essay collection, Perfectly Imperfect) traces the repercussions—both destructive and redemptive—of a parent’s worst fear: the death of a child. Maura Corrigan’s ostensibly perfect life is shattered when her nine-year-old son James, riding his bicycle, is hit by a car in front of Maura while she responds to a text. Guilt, anger, depression, and pain sweep over Maura; her husband, Pete; and her parents, Margaret and Roger, as Alex, the teen behind the fatal wheel, seeks desperately to make amends. As the family struggles to cope, James’s death highlights the myriad problems in Maura and Pete’s marriage, as well as in Margaret and Roger’s relationship. Pete’s drinking intensifies, Maura careens toward an affair, and Roger’s long-term infidelity comes to a sudden end. Woodruff occasionally falls into the trap of too much telling and not enough showing (e.g., “a sense of giddiness lent her a visual hyperawareness”), and the emotional effect of James’s death on the Corrigans’ other two children could withstand further illumination. Nevertheless, Woodruff’s deft navigation of emotionally troubled territory makes this a riveting and heartfelt read. Agent: Richard Pine, Inkwell Management. (Sept.)