Monday, March 13, 2006

Table for Five, by Susan Wiggs

By Christina VanGinkel

When Lily Robinson, an elementary teacher at a private school, needs to have a conference with the parents of one of her students who has struggled throughout the year, and who is now stealing from classmates and even the teacher, it is made all the more difficult because the mother of the student is her best friend, Crystal. To top things off, Crystal, former Miss Oregon, and her PGA card-carrying husband Derek have just recently divorced, and he seems to blame everyone for his daughter's problems but his self. They had what everyone on the outside looking in believed to be a picture book marriage, money, glamorous house and cars, exciting career, and three lovely children.

To make matters worse, neither Crystal nor Derek are on good terms with their teenage son Cameron. He is all too aware of what the divorce of his mother and father has done to all those he has loved and trusted. Add to the scenario one new fiance by the name of Jane, and Derek's half brother, Sean McGuire, who recently came back to the states after trolling around Asia on a golf tour that was ended when he supposedly was caught cheating, but had really fled the country when he made a mistake with the daughter of a yakuza mobster.

Lily has issues of her own, that call upon her to want to not have other people in her life, beyond those already there. Crystal has been a friend since she was twelve and Lily was eight, and it endured throughout the years, with Lily standing up in Crystal's wedding, and even having an affect on where she chose to live and work, so that she could be closer to Crystal. Beyond that friendship and being friendly with her colleagues, Lilly feels that her life has balance though, and dose not want to rock it by adding more people to the equation, especially someone as time consuming as a husband or children of her own. She is more than content to nurture the kids at school, to listen to their troubles and rejoice in their happy times, but be able to send them home at the end of the day. She also wants to be able to spend her summers traveling, with no ties holding her down, nobody to answer to, and especially nobody to ask anything of her.

When tragedy strikes closer to home than anybody could ever have imagined, and Lily Robinson and Sean McGuire are thrown together to protect and care for Crystal and Derek's children, including the youngest Ashley, who at barely two years old, seems to frighten Sean as much as she is fearful of him.

While this book turns out be a lot about love, life, and the suddenness at which things can happen, it is written in a voice that is both easy to read, yet compelling enough to keep one turning the pages, even when you can almost guess what you think might be on the next page. Actually, it is partly what turns out different from what one might expect that keeps you turning the pages up until the very end. It is also a story that makes you happy for what you have. It goes as far as to offer a glimpse of hope for those who might be looking for some inspiration in the pages of whatever it is they are currently reading too. A love story with an ending that you will have to read to find out just how everything turns out, it is nonetheless a story that will leave you smiling one minute, and crying the next, so be sure to grab a box of tissues before settling in to read it, as you will be wanting them close at hand.

Susan Wiggs is also the author of The Chicago Fire Trilogy, including The Firebrand, The Mistress, and The Hostage. She is also the author of a dozen other novels, including Summer by the Sea, The Ocean Between Us, A Summer Affair, Home Before Dark, Enchanted Afternoon, Passing Through Paradise, and Halfway to Heaven, The You I Never Knew, The Horsemaster's Daughter, The Charm School, The Drifter, and The Light Keeper.

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