When Bad Things Happen

From The New York Times:

Book_2 Songs without Words by Ann Packer.

In “Songs Without Words,” calamity visits a placid, prosperous California family — a homemaker, Liz Mackay; her handsome Wi-Fi executive husband, Brody; and their adolescent kids, Lauren and Joe — all of them so vanilla and photo-friendly they could be cast in a T-Mobile “Fave Five” commercial. Liz has lived an unusually lucky life. Growing up secure and well loved in a happy family, she gave in early to an inclination to look after others — particularly her childhood friend Sarabeth, whose mother committed suicide when Sarabeth was in high school. Now in her 40s and still single, Sarabeth wallows in regret for her life’s missteps, but Liz nurses only one sprig of misgiving: embarrassment that she never yearned for a career. “All Liz had ever really wanted was to be a mother,” Packer explains. “Lauren and Joe were her career — her work, her life.” When disaster touches her family, Liz is completely unprepared.

The incident smashes the Mackay family’s smooth surface like a meteorite landing in a pond. Liz blames herself. “I know, it sounds crazy,” she tells her husband, “but the point is: if it was your fault, then you weren’t powerless — you weren’t at the mercy of stuff just happening.” He replies, “You’re always going to be at the mercy of stuff just happening, no matter what.” Can the Mackays regain the illusion of serenity that had been their terra firma? Will Liz and Brody’s marriage survive this blow? And what will become of Sarabeth, who has leaned on Liz for three decades?

More here.