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What kind of doors open to those whose choices stem from betrayal and revenge? Can one mentally lock those gates to close the ensuing destructive cycle? Even though readers rationally know the memories hiding in Pandora's box are best left imprisoned in a locked part of our psyche, why are we so fascinated by the exciting, unpredictable chain of events loosed when past, shameful acts are allowed to become a part of the present?
Abigail's mother is a housekeeper for the Meriwhether family who seduces Mr. Meriwhether in order to keep him from straying out of the family. It's an act that has repercussions beyond imagination as Mrs. Meriwhether fires the seemingly innocent housekeeper. The worst part of it is that Lila Meriwhether, Abigail's best childhood friend, does absolutely nothing to help prevent Abigail and her mother being turned out into economic poverty and struggle. Lila's brother, with whom Abigail had one blissful romantic union, has been supportive by mail in the years since that terrible separation. But Lila and Abigail are consumed by their respective shame and fury surrounding that terrible day.
Both Lila and Abigail have become rich, the former by marriage to a successful financier and the latter by hard work as a renowned Martha Stewart-type entrepreneur. Lila, however, through tragic, unforeseen events, is transformed from a stylish socialite to a penniless, unskilled woman needing to find employment yesterday. She is finally brought to seeking that job from Abigail, who hires Lila in a burst of convenience as a housekeeper. Will such a debasement of Lila provide Abigail the satisfaction she seeks for revenge or is there a different spin that forms from this unlikely scenario?
Domestic Affairs abounds with unhappy people, including Abigail, her husband and sulking daughter, Lila and her fuming son, a warmhearted Afghani gardener who becomes a more than helpful companion to Lila, and a fierce Latin American mother determined to find justice for her daughter's death at the hands of Abigail's factory manager's rules.
The interplay between these satisfying characters is unpredictable and the outcome for all is cleverly constructed and quite surprising, without seeming contrived or naive.
Domestic Affairs is a fine, fine read that exemplifies the possibility of hope in the face of even the most dire circumstances!
Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on August 2, 2008