In the opening chapter of The Whole Golden World: A Novel, we see life crashing down around several of the characters, as a trial begins.
We are then privy to a rewind, like a slow reveal, as we watch how the events unfold, giving us an insider’s peek into the thoughts and feelings of the three primary female characters, whose stories are told from their perspectives in alternating chapters. Morgan is a seventeen-year-old girl that engages in an affair with her married teacher; Dinah, her stressed-out mother, juggles too many plates and lashes out regularly, while not seeing what is right in front of her; and Rain is the appeasing, peace-loving yoga teacher and wife to T. J., the man arrested for his affair with Morgan.
But there is much more to each of them. Morgan is smart, a good student, and seemingly much more adult than her years would suggest: she has taken on many responsibilities at home with her twin brothers, born prematurely and with some deficits that make their lives challenging, and up until this year in her life, has done nothing to disappoint the adults in her world.
And Dinah, who lashes out sometimes, is also an optimist; she believes the best about each of her children, and would lay down her life for any one of them.
Rain’s strength lies in her persistence, which has kept her in the marriage despite its issues. But perhaps the circumstances that now surround them all can be a pivotal moment for her.
Will the outrage of the community and its blowback on all of them change their lives in meaningful ways, or will they all be victims in the end?
I could not put this book down. Despite the often familiar headlines that bring out one sex scandal or another, and even as this very kind of issue comes up more and more, we all know there is much more to the story. Delving beneath the surface and behind closed doors, the author shows us how each of the characters struggled on a daily basis with the challenges in their lives, and how their human flaws led them to their wrong choices. The ending left this reader with much to ponder, as, in its final paragraphs, more insight is offered. Five stars.