Maura was one of those wallflowers: colorful enough to be sometimes noticeable, but most of the time so inconspicuous as to vanish into the bigger design of life on the wall, unless someone made the effort to take a closer look. Someone like her narcissistic husband, Nick.
Growing up, in school: "I (Maura) had the misfortune of being acceptable but not particular popular. I think, in a way, this is worse than being totally alone and rejected. You can see what you are let in on and what you're excluded from, what you're invited to and what was only for a more select group. You can be part only of some conversations, but listen to others without understanding them fully. You're the one left out when numbers are tight and you have no idea why. So at school I had friends, of a sort, but none that I really trusted or who trusted me, although I longed to be important enough to be taken into someone's confidence." She would experience the same in her adopted town Dowerby.
As an already married woman with a young daughter, Maura met Kim. She was her first real friend whom she could trust and who changed her outlook on life in many ways. Kim opened up a world of exciting possibilities to her, which she grabbed onto with everything she had. There was just one problem: the Dowerby town did not find comfort in the feisty, free-spirited new journalist in their midst. They did not appreciate Kim's nosy questions about town management and people's private lives, especially not those of the council members. Suddenly there was someone who did not flinch in rocking their safe little wooden boxes in which they flourished on corruption, mismanagement, greed, unfaithfulness, hypocrisy and fraud. Kim knew how to send the wood chips flying everywhere. The only box they would not allow to be shattered was the ancient-old dunking-chair of the Dowerby Fair.
"Everyday Kim said something kind, which I took home with me and thought over, and knew I was lucky." Kim would also expose the poisoned chalice in her life - one that Maura never would have identified on her own and even denied existed. She taught her daughter to become a people-pleaser like herself to safeguard herself.
But then Kim, the person who taught her to re-evaluate her own life, believes, self-image, unexpectedly died. The circumstances in which it happened, necessitated Maura to leave her daughter, as well as husband, and flee her old life to start a new life somewhere else under a different name...
For five years she got away with it, until a journalist tracked her down and forced her to confront her past and face her own truths.
The book does not only charm, engross and pull the reader into the story, it also contains beautiful prose like this: " Even the lipstick-coloured roses that filled most people’s gardens in Dowerby couldn’t cheer up the scenery..."
This is an excellent debut novel. Constant suspense in a fully developed plot. The weather becomes an effective tool, and not a pathetic phallacy, in the fast flowing tale of betrayal, love, intrigue, friendship and justice. A riveting drama.