cover image The Gretchen Question

The Gretchen Question

Jessica Treadway. Delphinium, $25.95 (250p) ISBN 978-1-883285-89-0

Treadway’s ruminative latest (after How Will I Know You?) spans one day in the life of a single mother enduring a terminal cancer relapse. Roberta Chase, 47, tries to tell her son, Will, about her prognosis, but he won’t speak to her until she reveals the identity of his biological father. When Roberta reports for work—she’s a coder in a hospital—her supervisor informs her that she’s been suspended over concerns about her ability to perform while undergoing cancer treatment. Later, she interrupts a break-in at her best friend, Grettie’s house; the intruder, recognizing her condition, takes pity on her. Threaded throughout are Roberta’s memories of her and Will’s relationship through the years, as well as her friendship with Grettie, whom Roberta met in college and whom she adores in a more than platonic way. Roberta’s final chore of the day is to attend a therapy session, where an explosive confrontation unearths the truth about Will’s paternity and shows why Roberta has lied to her child and everyone around her over and over again. While some of Roberta’s relationships with other characters feel underdeveloped, her emotional journey is captured beautifully. Treadway powerfully captures one woman’s attempt to live a meaningful existence despite all that she has endured. (June)