Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard
Published by Harper Collins Paperbacks ISBN 978-0062080066
Trade paperback, $14.99
Reading this insightful novel by Sara Shepard made me uncomfortable at times. The self-destructive behavior of some of her characters may hit a little close to home for some readers, and I think that many readers may recognize themselves in some of the characters.
Sylvie is a wealthy recent widow, and mother to two grown sons: Charles, her birth son and Scott, adopted when he just a few years old. Charles always felt that he disappointed his father, that he wasn't the son his father wanted. Scott is an angry, sullen young man whom everyone feels they have to tiptoe around lest they set him off. Charles recently married Joanna, a young woman from a different side of town, whose troubled mother is always visiting the ER complaining of various illnesses.
Sylvie's grandfather ran a local boarding school for children from wealthy families. Sylvie adored her grandfather, even living in his home and serving on the board of the school. A scandal at the school involves Scott, who works as a wrestling coach.
I found the fact that no one in Sylvie's family ever really communicated honestly with each other led to bad decisions, or worse, no decisions at all. I wanted to shake them all out of their stasis, yet at the same time, understood their reluctance to face their problems head on. It is a part of human nature we can all relate to.
Shepard's characters are authentic and heartbreaking. She really gets into the nitty-gritty of what it means to be a newlywed, a mom, a widow, a son. The title of the book refers to what happens when you think you have everything you ever wanted: Joanna has Charles, whom she has dreamed of meeting since she was a young girl, Sylvie has her work at the school and her good, respected family name; Scott grew up in an intact, wealthy family with every monetary advantage; Charles has a lovely wife and a brand new house. But once you have everything you want, you may realize that it may not be everything you hoped it to be.
This is a novel that will make you squirm a little bit, and maybe even encourage you to be a little more introspective about your own life.