On the outside, Meg Brennan Roberts is the very portrait of it. Attractive and successful, Meg manages to weave her three kids’ schedules in seamlessly with full-time work at a winery in scenic Napa Valley, California. Her husband, an architect, is a good provider — even if Jack is distant lately, a bit absent-minded. At work, Meg feels happy and sophisticated; at home, she feels like she’s drowning. And with three younger sisters battling issues and a parent facing illness, Meg feels . . . tired. Cold. Desperate for escape, for something more.
But there are consequences.
It’s been a while since I sank into a book like Jane Porter’s The Good Woman. From the description above, you might think, “Eh, great — another story about a mid-life crisis.” And to be fair? It sort of is. It’s obvious Jack isn’t paying Meg much attention. After 17 years of marriage, he’s just sort of . . . around. Not helping with the kids, not helping with things around the house. Not showing Meg any care and affection. Just there.
The events following Meg’s realization of discontent are gradual — so gradual it took me a while to realize what was happening. But I liked that about it. Porter’s pace is deliberate, and she lets us into Meg’s head often enough to feel the frustration and boredom without playing all her cards at once. Though I felt parts of the narrative became repetitive (Meg hadn’t felt this way in so long, Meg just needed something more), Porter’s in-depth exploration of her main character’s emotions made this book for me.
While The Good Woman stays firmly in the present, flashbacks to the Brennan sisters’ childhood and teenage years provide backdrop for how Meg — sanctimoniously called “Sister Mary Margaret” by a sneering sister — became such a control freak. Known as an extreme perfectionist, Meg is the quintessential “good woman”: a good wife, good mother, good daughter. She works so hard to maintain these ideals that she rarely pauses to figure out what she wants. And who hasn’t felt that way?
Honestly, as the eldest of five kids (four of them women), just about anyone born into that large Irish-American family would struggle under the collective weight of expectation. The Brennan sisters, all at various stages of their lives, are dealing with some heavy stuff — and Meg tries to be there for all of them (save free spirit Bree). When she finally cracks, succumbing to a handsome man’s advances, I didn’t feel nearly as annoyed with her as I should have. By the time the real stuff goes down, we’ve bonded with her. I felt like I knew her. And while not excusing the behavior, I just felt really sorry for her.
The Good Woman is more than mommy-breakdown-lit — and more than a book on infidelity. With three-dimensional characters, a captivating storyline and many emotional twists, Porter’s first in a new trilogy centered on the Brennan women held me hostage. I devoured the book in less than a week, picking it up whenever I had a few minutes, and will eagerly anticipate the next novel in the series.
4 out of 5!