Mary Gottschalk’s first novel A Fitting Place wraps the reader in a familiar blanket in the opening pages. A lovely surprise awaited me as I began reading a story told a hundred different ways of a marriage breaking up when a husband falls for someone younger. Lindsey Chandler and her story of growth leaves the typical and takes the reader on her journey to find out just what her “fitting place” is in the world.
Lindsey’s world crumbles and her teenage daughter Zoey crumbles right along with her. Gottschalk doesn’t shy away from the issues as Zoey crashes into a full-blown case of bulimia, and Lindsey realizes the perfect world of her marriage and family never really existed except in the pages of a fantasy created after her own troubled childhood. As a result, Lindsey explores different avenues on her journey, including an affair with another woman.
I loved the juxtaposition of Lindsey’s two female friends in the book. Dee is the friend we all have, born from their husbands’ friendship. But the friendship with Dee is based on certain presumptions, one of which is that Lindsey and Ted are happily married. When it becomes evident that isn’t true, neither Dee nor Lindsey know exactly what to do, but they keep trying. Lindsey realizes she’s never been honest with Dee about her feelings, while at the same time realizing she’s never been truthful to herself. Joan represents the “friend” whose friendship is based on something other than mutual respect. Soon enough Lindsey realizes that Joan needs Lindsey to be a certain way, just as Ted did during their marriage. Lindsey explores a sexual relationship with Joan and enjoys the results; however, she also realizes that she prefers the intimacy of men.
While it may seem this book is an examination of sexual preferences, I didn’t feel that was the main theme. It’s just an interesting side plot.
This book is about love–all kinds of love. There is the love we have for a partner; there is the love we have for our children; there is the love we have for our dearest friends; and there is the love we develop over time with people who are thrust into our lives without having chosen them. That type of love is portrayed by Gottschalk in the guise of Lindsey’s mother-in-law. Through this relationship, the reader sees how we can often misinterpret others and make judgements without taking the time to talk to another person.
A Fitting Place works on many levels. I found myself pushing for certain outcomes of the book (no spoilers here), but then sat back and enjoyed the writing of Gottschalk. She’s just as meticulous in her prose in this book as she was in her memoir Sailing Down the Moonbeam.
I recommend A Fitting Place if you love to enter vicariously into the world of a character as she searches for a better self, which includes love in all its choices and incarnations.
Disclosure: I received an Advanced Review Copy A Fitting Place in exchange for an honest review.