Young Wives: Olivia Goldsmith

 

I generally do my reading on my phone, using the Kindle app and from books rented from the Ohio Digital Library, but I bought this book from a United Way book sale at work.  I paid $1, and I feel like I got a pretty good bargain.  Actually, the book sale was supposed to be from 2014, and my boss just forgot to donate the remaining books.  They’ve been sitting in an empty office for a year.  So we collectively decided to reopen the sale, and discount the books.  This book was discounted from $3, but even if I’d paid full price, I’d have been happy with my purchase.

I bought the book for the shiny gold cover, with a window cut out to reveal what looks like a Grecian scene with three ladies, arms linked.  The cover said that this was written by the author of The First Wives Club, which I watched as a pre-teen.  I’m fairly certain that this movie colored some of my thinking about relationships, if nothing else, it certainly made me appreciate a strong female character and a good revenge story.  

 

This book opens with Angela Wakefield, attorney at law, sitting in a fancy schmancy restaurant, waiting for her husband of one year to greet her for their anniversary.  She’s uncomfortable, because her family has a lower social status than her husband’s, but she’s so in love with the charming, handsome Reid that she knows she can face anything.  Reid is a fairy tale husband.  He’s from a WASPey family, and he’s totes handsome, and he’s super rich.  What could go wrong?

 

First, lady, you married a guy named Reid.  I’m going to judge the shit out of this character based on his name, because judging is one of the things that I do best.  If you are with someone romantically, and you believe that they’re too good for you, and they know that you believe this, then they’re going to also assume that they’re too good for you.  This is exactly what happens next. Reid gives Angela her anniversary present, which is an extremely expensive sapphire ring, and begs her to have a second wedding ceremony, a year after their actual wedding.  Angela is reacting to this with happiness over the fact that Reid loves her so much, when he continues to run his mouth.  He wants to stand up and reaffirm their love, because they had such a shaky start.  Not everyone thought they were a good match, and his parents, well…

 

Angela sits through this thinking “what the hell?” At this point Reid drops the bomb that even he had his doubts, but after he had gotten over his doubts and the silly little affair he’d had in the heat of the uncertainty, he realized…at this point Angela gets up and goes to the ladies room.  Kapow.

 

The chapter changes and we meet Michelle Russo, who is a sexy blonde babe with a fetish for keeping things clean.  She has a beautiful McMansion, two beautiful children, a little dog named Pookie, and a hot sexy construction contractor husband.  Her life is peeeeerrrrrrfect.  Michelle had a very sad childhood, so she really needs the security and comfort of the American dream in which she is now living.  She spends this scene getting the children to bed and the bathroom cleaned up so that she can get herself ready for some sexy sex time with her oh so macho husband Frank.  She’d do anything to stay attractive and desireable for him, because he is literally her dream come true.

 

Back in the restaurant, Angela calls her father.  She has some trepidation about this because her father left her mother after having an affair, but he’s her dad, after all, and people make mistakes.  Angela’s dad tells her to walk out of the restaurant, not to even look at Reid, and to get on a plane and come stay with him.  This is a great dad.  I love when a character has some flaws (he keeps repeating that he can’t believe Reid told Angela about the affair, rather than keeping it secret, which is so not the issue) but is essentially a rock solid decent person when an emergency happens.  Angela hasn’t taken her purse with her so she has no money when she hops in the cab, but as she gets out at the airport she realizes that she does have something of value…the giant sapphire.  She extracts the ring from the box, and gives it to the cab driver. Marriage over.

 

In the next chapter we meet Jada Jackson, bank manager and the only black woman in the conservative whitebread suburb of Westchester, Massachusetts.  She’s on her way home from work after another long day at the bank.  She doesn’t mind being the family bread winner, but she does mind that her husband Clinton, whose construction trade was destroyed in the recession, will be sitting at home in the messy house with unfed children, watching TV, having done nothing all day because he’s “depressed.”  This reminds me of The Sims, when you have a character who just isn’t autonomous, and who will pee all over himself and not shower, then will miss his ride to work and get fired, and then says “I’m too sad to look for a job” when you try to get him to read the papers.  Jada is sympathetic to the emotional fallout from Clinton’s financial failure.  He was a hardworking man who did beautiful work to support his family, and when his business failed through no real fault of his own, the shame and despair of his wife having to pick up his slack was very hard on him.  She understands this, because Jada is the smartest character in this book.  Still, this has driven a large spike between them.  She resents Clinton for being a giant wuss, and he resents her for no longer needing him.  She tries to cope by being kick-ass at work, but she faces some prejudice as a black woman manager, and in particular there are a few old tight asses who resent her rise to success, which she earned through hard work and determination.  This was a really well written chapter, and I felt like the author was giving us a glimpse of a relationship she’d had or known of in real life.  

 

We come to learn that Michelle and Jada are best friends, and they go on long walks every morning.  Michelle knows of Jada’s troubles and wonders what the hell is wrong with Clinton.  Jada knows that Michelle’s husband, who also works in construction, seemed to come out with tons of money in his pockets while everyone else failed, and wonders exactly how this happened.  Michelle works at the bank Jada manages, and Michelle helped get Jada a job, but she isn’t jealous or resentful of her friend’s success.  Michelle is happy to work part time and let her husband handle the money, and she thinks Jada’s doing a great job.  While they’re out on their walks, they pass a neighbor’s house, where it appears a young woman is watching them from the window.  They joke that she must be a mail order bride, because the guy who lives there is old enough to be her father.  They laugh about this, but it turns into a sad note.  Men just need women around to take care of them, because they’re pretty worthless otherwise. Michelle’s husband is a great provider, but she feels that she has to work hard to live up to his expectations in terms of the house and her face and figure.  Jada’s husband thinks that they should live in the poorhouse and resents that she’s working, even though it’s what’s keeping a roof over their heads.  But you, know.  Men!  Ha ha!  Lighthearted fun!

 

During this time Angela has been living at her father’s house, in the suburb of Wakefield and is, you guessed it, the face that watches Michelle and Jada walking every morning.  She’s jealous because her best friend Lisa is in her old city.  She and Lisa worked together, and she has been calling Lisa relentlessly with her woe, unable to shower or get her butt off her dad’s couch. Angela knows she’s getting fat and filthy and she just doesn’t care.  Then, one day, flowers arrive in the mail.  From Reid!  With a card, begging forgiveness!  While Angela is angry and upset, she’s just so miserable and lonely.  A phone call can’t hurt, right?  She calls Reid, but a woman answers his phone.  Angela hangs up.

 

Jada goes home and tells Clinton they Need To Talk. We learn here that she knows that Clinton has occasionally crossed some boundaries with female clients, if he thought it would result in a higher paying contract or more work, and Jada had resigned herself to this.  In fact, Clinton has a girlfriend he has confessed to, blaming depression, etc., and Jada’s tired of being sympathetic to the point of stupidity.  Clinton whines that he needs Jada, and that he’s trying to get over his emotional issues, and Jada tells him to STFU.  He won’t even make the bed or heat up some mac and cheese for their kids, so what the hell is he “trying so hard” to do?  Jada tells him that she doesn’t need him to work.  She doesn’t need him to clean.  She’ll do her own damn working and cleaning, but if Clinton wants to stay in the picture, he needs to dump the girlfriend, Tonya and be a good family husband.  Jada’s not so much tired of Clinton as she is the fact that everyone at church and work and in town know that she’s putting up with him and thinks she’s being a fool.  Clinton protests.  He built most of the house, even though she nags that he’s left so much unfinished during his unemployment.  Jada give him a week to either get his shit together or to get his shit out.  She’s very rational during this, and approaches it from a managerial standpoint. I love you, Jada.  I would marry you in a heartbeat.  

 

That night Michelle and Frank retire to bed, but Frank’s too tired to take advantage of Michelle’s charms.  They are awakened hours later, by the police raiding their house.  It’s horrible and hard to read.  The children are screaming, Michelle is hauled out of bed partially dressed and thrown on the floor in front of her children, handcuffed.  Frank is brutalized and handcuffed as well. The cops let the dog Pookie run out the door and off into the night (SPOILER ALERT:  the dog comes back.  Don’t worry!)  The house is ripped apart unnecessarily.  They’re clearly making an example of this search.  It’s aggressive, and not exactly police procedure the way I understand it.  Frank and Michelle are eventually hauled off in a cop car, while the neighbors stand outside their houses and watch.  

 

The next morning the newspapers announce that a drug kingpin has been arrested. Jada tries to keep the gossip to a minimum at work.  She reminds her employees that Michelle has been a wonderful friend to all of them, and is a good person and a generous mother.The night before she’d watched the scene with horror, and when she’d come back inside Clinton had yelled at her for consorting with criminals.  He tells her that they both know something is fishy with Frank and his contracts and that he doesn’t want his wife or their children associated with the Russo family.

 

This was quite timely for me to read because just a year or so ago, in Cleveland, our very own Russo family faced some big time legal trouble for government corruption.  Like this situation, it was fairly obvious that some suspicious shit was happening, and no one was surprised when people ended up being removed from their positions and jailed.  I imagine the people working with the real life Cleveland Russo family went through a similar panic – were they too close?  Would Johnny Law believe they were unaware of the stuff that was really happening?  Should they cut ties, or would that be suspicious?  Must have been terrifying, even for the innocent.

 

Michelle finally calls Jada and tells her that she’s back at home, and the kids are being fostered.  The damage to the house is horrifying.  Jada offers to take the kids while Michelle tries to straighten the house.  Frank is still in jail, and Michelle is convinced it’s all just a big horrible mistake.  How could perfect Frank do anything wrong?

 

Back at Angela’s dad’s house, they discuss Angela’s situation.  Her dad thinks she needs to get back out there, get a job!  Show that bastard, Reid!  Angela doesn’t want to go back to the ritzy world of Boston law.  She tells her dad that she’s going to see her mother and get some advice.  Her mom works at a crisis center in the non-profit world, helping women who are need of legal services on a sliding scale basis. Angie’s not sure what she wants, but she knows that her dad hurt her mom the way Angela’s hurting right now, and right now she decides she’s mad at all men, and she just needs her mom. The next day Angela sees her mom and reluctantly agrees to check out the depressing, miserable, gut-wrenching crisis center, because Angela really has nothing else to do at this point.

 

Jada brings Michelle’s kids to her house and immediately tells her children to play nice.  Clinton is not happy with this situation.  Clinton’s afraid that he, as a black man in a conservative white suburb, will be somehow harassed or implicated now that Jada is associating with a known drug lord.  Jada tells Clinton to get real, Frank may be shady but it’s probably not drugs, and either way, the kids certainly had nothing to do with anything and don’t deserve to suffer when they can spend a few days with friends.  During the fight Jada decides she’s fed up.  Clinton needs to make a choice.  Either he’s a family man or he’s not.  If he goes to Tonya’s house again, he’s not to come back.  She tells Clinton that she feels more kinship with Michelle than she does with Clinton, and defies his orders to stay in the house.  Jada leaves to go to help Michelle clean up the mess left by the search.

 

The next morning Angela shows up a the crises center and almost has a nervous breakdown.  The women in the office are so sad that it puts her into total misery.  Angela’s life has changed so much.  She’s driving a crappy loaned car, and she had to buy a suit in double digit sizes (the horror!) because she’s gained so much weight. Since she promised her mother she’d try, she reads through some files and is horrified by the way women have been treated personally and financially by men, and agrees to work for her mother on a temporary basis.  

 

Back at the Russo house, Frank is out on bail.  He’s bruised and in pain, and he’s angry.  Michelle attempts to clean up the wreckage of their perfect house, and Frank tells her to screw trying to clean up the rubble, go out and buy all brand new things, and keep receipts.  The government is going to pay for the unconstitutional way they treated Frank during the search and arrest.  Frank’s hired a very expensive lawyer, one’s who’s going to make those bastards pay!  Pay for legal fees, pay for damages, pay for punitive damages.  Jada shows up and immediately comes to Michelle’s help, cracking jokes and pitching in with the work.  She tells Michelle that she’s on the verge of getting a lawyer herself, but briskly gets back to business.  She tells Michelle to forget about the nosy idiots at work, she’s going to have go to work sometime and face the music, but that it’s just people being people and not to worry too much about it.  Jada is the world’s best friend.  Unfortunately for her, being a good friend does not prepare her for the quiet emptiness when she returns to her house.  Clinton has packed up and taken off, and he’s taken the children.  That BASTARD!

 

In the Romazzano house, Angela has decided to go back to the city and clean out the house she shared with Reid.  She’s going to go in while he’s at work, and clear out all of her personal belongings.  She realizes this is going to be a hard task, physically and emotionally, so she attempts to reach her best friend Lisa to see if she can come help.  She’s not able to reach Lisa at work, so she leaves her a vague voice mail requesting that Lisa call her out to help her with a favor.  While she’s waiting for her flight, she decides to call Reid one more time.  It’s not because she’s weak, no.  It’s because she needs closure. Riiiiiiight.  These are the lies we tell ourselves to make our decisions seem less stupid.  When she reaches Reid, she does a pretty good job of telling him off.  Reid apologizes repeatedly, begging her to give him a chance.  She somehow ends up admitting to him that she’s on her way home, but only for a few hours, she insists.  This is not the way a woman acts when she’s really convinced she doesn’t want to see someone ever again.  Angie and the movers show up and go through the house, during the sweep, Angie discovers some unfamiliar clothing and shoes in the closet, and is completely disgusted.  She’s dealing with this crap when Reid walks in.  

 

Reid tells her how empty he’s felt since she’s left, and how lonely he’s been.  He’s so persuasive.  He tells Angie how much he still loves her, and she’s mesmerized by how handsome he is, and how someone so charming and handsome could love her.  She tells him she’s given away his ring, and he holds her and shushes her, telling her he’ll buy her another ring.  This is when Lisa walks into the room and asks what the hell is going on.

 

Angie is so ashamed to be seen going back on her resolve with Reid!  She steps away and tells Lisa “good, you got my message!”  Lisa asks Reid what he’s doing there.  Reid responds that this is his house, after all.  Lisa is disgusted!  Reid is such a narcissist!  Angela tries to calm Lisa, telling her it’s OK.  She and Reid are going to try to work things out. Lisa doesn’t want to hear it.  She’s so tired of hearing Angela “whine.”  Angela is confused. Oh, Anglea.  Really?  You didn’t see this coming?  The penny finally drops.

 

I’m not really sure how she didn’t recognize Lisa’s voice and the voice that answered the phone, but the author claims that Angela’s misery has made her self absorbed so that she wasn’t really listening to her friend on the other line.  This seems…not totally legit.  I suppose if Lisa answered the phone thinking it was Reid calling, she might have used a sexier tone or something.  Still, this little weird detail continues to stick in my brain.  

 

At the Russo house, things aren’t going well.  The youngest child, Frankie, is almost catatonic.  He spends his days looking out the window for their lost dog, and wets himself in school, for which he is unfairly punished.  The older child Jenna is being bullied.  Michelle makes some brownies for the school bake sale, trying to make nice and resume some sense of normality, and decides to talk to Frankie’s school, where she says that making a child sit in his wet, soiled clothing after a traumatic incident is NOT OK, and that they’re going to sue the police for false arrest.  She marches off, head held high, to the bake sale, where she is promptly ostracized and shunned.

 

Frank is the protective husband.  He apologizes to Michelle for putting her through such rough times.  Michelle tells him it’s not his fault…but is it?  She asks him for more information on what’s really going on.  Frank admits that the DA’s out for someone’s blood, but swears he has nothing but honest dealings.  Riiiiiiight.

 

Jada searches for her children at Clinton’s mother’s house, but the children aren’t there.  She has a sneaking suspicion that they’re living with Clinton and his girlfriend Tonya.  Michelle suggests that Jada call Bruzeman, the attorney she and Frank are going to use.  Jada doesn’t really want to admit it’s reached that point, but she wants her kids back so she reluctantly agrees.

 

The consultation with Bruzeman seemingly goes well.  Jada doesn’t really like him, but she doesn’t want a lawyer she likes, she wants a lawyer who will get her children back as soon as possible.  Bruzeman warns Jada that her being the breadwinner might be “a problem,” unless they put some spin on the situation.  He’s delighted to find out that Jada manages a bank, and informs her that divorce is expensive, right before asking for a $10,000 retainer.  Jada is flabbergasted.  She may be the breadwinner, but between Clinton not working, the cost of living, and raising three kids, she has no extra money.  Bruzeman tells Jada that without the money he has no time to help her, so Jada writes him a big, fat, rubber check.

 

Jada hauls Michelle out for their regular morning walk, and they commiserate.  Michelle’s cleaning more compulsively than ever, and having panic attacks at night.  Jada’s feeling put off by Bruzeman, who seems to have tons of time to hang out on the phone with Frank, but keeps putting her off about the time frame for Jada to get her kids.  They’re both struggling to stay strong, but Jada points out that even that’s a bad thing, because then the people you’re being strong for decide you’re “too hard,” and “not vulnerable enough.”  It’s clear she’s talking about Clinton but also telling Michelle some of the side effects that can come with being a strong woman.  They reaffirm their friendship and what they mean to each other, then Jada goads Michelle into touching a lamppost that Michelle’s been touching for years on their walks, a totem of good luck. Michelle isn’t in the mood, but she does anyway, for tradition.  Jada laughs and points into the darkness. Pookie walks out from behind a garage and returns to Michelle, as though nothing has happened.  The women decide to take this as a sign that things are going to get better.  OR ARE THEY?

 

Back at the clinic, Angie throws herself into her new work, to distract herself from her pain and embarrassment, and admits to her mom and the clinic’s financial backer that the reason she’s suddenly back with a vengence is because she discovered Reid’s affair was with her best friend.  This revelation makes her so sick, she vomits up her lunch very suddenly.  She blames her nausea on her feelings about Reid and Lisa, and forgets about it as quickly as it happened.  Of course it’s just emotional vomit!  Nothing else could possibly be going on here!

 

Michelle goes back to work for the first time since the arrest, and is shocked and angered to discovered that her desk has been moved to someplace in the corner, barely visible to customer or other workers.  She received a call from Jada, who is calling from her private office.  Jada tells Michelle she needs a favor and asks Michelle to look in her desk drawer.  Michelle does and discovers an unsecured loan application for $10,000.00. Jada tells Michelle she can’t use the equity in the house yet, because she needs Clinton’s signature. However, Jada is sure that once the divorce proceedings start, getting access to the equity will happen pretty quickly.  She’s not doing anything wrong, she just needs Michelle to process it like any other request, but to do so quickly.  She needs that money to get her kids back, after all.  Michelle is happy to process her friend’s request.  

 

At the end of Michelle’s first day back, a man pushes his way into the bank and demands to speak with Jada.  He’s a process server, and Clinton has beaten Jada to the punch.  Clinton’s been awarded temporary custody, and Jada wants to know what the hell Bruzeman has been doing.  Oh, and Clinton’s also been awarded alimony and child support.  Jada cancels her check to Bruzeman and declares that she’s getting another lawyer.  

 

Michelle convinces Jada to go to a women’s clinic with her.  Jada’s not so sure that Michelle’s giving great advice here.  Michelle lets her husband Frank handle all of their financial needs, and she’s never faced the prejudices that Jada has.  Furthermore, Jada is furious that Clinton is saying that Jada’s work schedule has made her an unfit mother.  At the clinic, Jada is introduced to Angela Romazzano-Wakefield.  

 

Angela treats Jada with such respect and seriousness that Jada insists Angela take the case personally.  Angela suggests that someone else in the clinic with more experience might be the better option, but Jada doesn’t care.  Angela has shown that she cares, and that’s enough.  Angela promises that Jada will get visitation within the next forty-eight hours.  

 

In her personal life, Angela has realized that it’s time to move on and rent an apartment.  She befriends a coworker named Michael, who hooks her up with apartment agents, and she spends a fair amount of time looking for something that’s affordable but not also completely terrible.  On her last apartment visit, she becomes nauseated again, and the agent laughs and says that at least it can’t be morning sickness, since it’s not morning.  Ha ha!  None of the readers should be surprised by this plot twist, since it’s been hinted at since Angela complained of getting fatter while living on her dad’s couch.  

 

Back at Michelle’s, she’s happy because life is getting back to normal.  She’s gotten new furniture, the kids are doing better, and even the dog has returned home.  The only thing off is Frank.  Where is he?  He’s usually home by now.  Michelle walks through her house and into the study, the one room that they haven’t quite finished fixing yet, and finds Frank sitting very quietly, stroking the dog’s fur.  Frank tells Michelle that he’s going to be indicted.  There was a confidential investigation going on for months.  Michelle insists that Frank tell her what’s going on, how could he be indicted, if he’s innocent?  Frank tells her he has been accused of being the head mastermind in a cocaine distribution ring, but again insists that he’s innocent.  Totally innocent!  Drug masterminds don’t go on roofing jobs, and they drive brand new cars all the time and have millions in the bank, he insists.  Basically Frank tells Michelle that he’s not a mastermind because drug distributors leave paper trails, and he totally doesn’t.  Michelle feels doubt, but Frank is mad.  How could she doubt him?  He’s awesome, sexy Frank!  He’s innocent!  He begs Michelle to stick with him.

 

Jada has her first visitation and it’s not great.  The kids are calling Clinton’s girlfriend Auntie Tonya, and they beg Jada to let her take them home.  Of course, Jada is not allowed to do this.  This is supervised visitation, and it takes place in public.

 

Angie’s getting along well at work in the women’s crisis center, making friends, making a difference.  Angie’s mom warns her not to get too cocky or comfortable in Jada’s case.  Her mom recognizes the signs of a leech when she sees one, and warns Angie that Clinton will stoop to all sorts of nefarious things to bleed Jada’s assets dry.  Turns out Clinton and his lawyer have twisted Jada’s work ethic into classic syndrome of being a “bad mother,” which I’m going to rant about in a minute.  Jada’s long hours at the bank to make the mortgage payments and put food on the table have turned into Jada never being home for her children and neglecting her “family duties.”  Clinton claims that he was left to be the homemaker (despite never cooking or cleaning) and that Jada was consorting with “possible felons.”  OK, that last part was true.  But still…innocent until proven guilty, am I right, America?  Just kidding!  The American public loves to try people based on nothing more than headlines!

 

Now.  I know that this is a fictional book and I know that it was published in 2000, but this really pisses me off.  Maybe it’s because the characters live in type of stereotypical McMansion community where the men have high powered jobs and the women are part time workers or Pinterest Martha Stewart types, but this attitude still persists today and it’s all wrong.  When we talk about men, a man working longer hours at a job to keep his family in stylish comfort is considered a “real man,” whereas a woman who does the same is just considered too career oriented.  I was once at a function in a similar community, making small talk with a woman who was a retired kindergarten teacher.  She was horrified that I’d gone back to school in my early thirties.  “Why would you do that?” she asked me. “You’re already getting old.  You’re going to have kids at some point and you’re certainly not going to be working then. Kids need their mom home for their formative years.”  I pointed out that if I adopted children (it never would have occurred to this woman that some women might be totally fine with never having children) my husband would more than likely be the person who did the work from home thing, because he works in a creative industry that better allows remote working and flexible hours. She looked at me like I’d suggested I’d be handing my kids over to a meth addict.  Lady, if you’re not comfortable with your husband raising your family, why would you have kids with him in the first place?  Anyway, long personal aside over, a woman who doesn’t show maternal love by being 100% home-centric is considered a biological freak, an oddity.  Less so in 2015, but still more so than a man who works and has a family. I don’t understand how people can assume that a man is more equipped to handle a stressful job full of responsibility than a woman, but then turn around and say a man isn’t sufficient for child rearing.  Isn’t that also a stressful job full of responsibility?  

 

Another interesting gem in this scene is Jada judging Clinton’s girlfriend for sleeping with half the people in their church congregation. First, the concept of a church slut?  Hilarious. But seriously, Jada. Be angry that she’s conspiring with Clinton to take your money.  Be angry that she entered into a relationship with your husband, sure.  But being angry that a single woman is having sex?  That’s beneath you, and we all know it.  Save that real anger for Clinton, and don’t slut shame other women for an activity you wouldn’t think twice about if she were a man.  

 

Frank and Michelle meet with Bruzeman, who reminds Frank that of course this wasn’t cleared up in a week for a cool $25k, because in order for Frank and Michelle to be arrested, the witness had to have had some kind of evidence strong enough for the cops to act.  “Witness?”  Michelle asks.  She’s flabbergasted. Frank’s done nothing but protest his innocence, but the situation just keeps sounding worse and worse.  After all, the fact that they found nothing in the search of the home doesn’t mean that Frank isn’t guilty of something, somewhere.  Bruzeman assures Michelle that she’s in the clear, that this mystery witness must have retracted allegations against her.  Michelle is stunned, not comforted.  She’s not sure what to do with the children, who are already traumatized, and will be more so as the indictment happens.  She’s thinking about boarding schools for the kids when she pulls into work, and is told that the news about Frank has hit the papers.  Reporters are everywhere.  Jada and Michelle try to keep them from the bank, but one makes it through on the clever ruse that he’s applying for a loan.  Obviously, this causes bank dramaaaaa. Michelle feels she has no choice but to resign.  Jada can’t keep protecting her.  

 

Jada comes home for her visit with the social worker, who is so obviously biased and insane that I’m frankly surprised this woman got a license.  She sees the unfinished house (which Clinton has stopped work on, by the way) and attributes it to Jada being a bad homemaker.  The idea that Jada works outside of the home shocks and horrifies her, just as that drunk lady at the Oktoberfest judged me for going back to school rather than producing/adopting tons of babies.  I know a few social workers, and this seems like totally unrealistic behavior to me.  Of course, it could be the setting of the book as well.

 

Jada is outraged when she is forced to take an immediate, monitored drug test.  OK, that part is realistic.  If you’ve ever had to do an on the spot drug test for anything, you know the confusion and horror and embarrassment you feel, even if you’re not technically on drugs.  The whole procedure makes you feel guilty and criminal.  Unfortunately for Jada, she had taken a Xanax earlier (I don’t remember whose…not hers!) and she’s thinking about that while she pees in the cup.  Jada calls Angie immediately, who is suspicious about the social worker’s behavior and attitude.  Jada also calls her parents, who live in the Barbados.  It’s time for her to admit that this nightmare is real.  

 

All in all this was probably the hardest scene for me to read.  Jada has done everything right, and is going through the steps she needs to in order to prove she’s a good woman and mother, and each step of the way there’s some kind of bizarre element that’s out of her control, butting up against her.  The point where she finally realizes that she’s in a situation that she can’t resolve on her own, a situation she may not resolve at all, is a point we’ve all reached with something in our lives.  She’s had to admit that as awesome and powerful as she is, this situation is beyond her.  Now in addition to worrying about herself, she has to let her family worry about her too.  This causes her to worry about her parents, and now she’s in this big chain-o-worry.  TOO MUCH REAL LIFE IN THIS SCENE.

 

Angie meets the women the next day and they all take a morning walk together.  Angie assures Jada that taking a Xanax isn’t a problem, but that she should see a doctor and get a prescription so it doesn’t look like she’s a recreational user.  She tells Jada half the women in America are on Xanax and it’s no big deal, but secretly muses that she really doesn’t know if Jada being on mental health drugs is going to be an issue or not.  ANGIE, YOU ARE BEING A TERRIBLE LAWYER HERE.  Angie tells Michelle and Jada the story about her first anniversary, and they’re stunned that this woman who appears to have it together could have been so horribly deceived as well.  They are truly sisters in misery.  Angie then goes on a lecture about Constitutional Law, telling Michelle that instead of wallowing in doubt, she needs to get a criminal defense lawyer of her own.  See, the Fourth Amendment, that bit about search and seizure?  Yeah, that can’t happen without “probable cause.”  Michelle immediately gasps.  “So there’s some kind of proof,then!”  Which is essentially what Bruzeman told Michelle in non-legalese, but for some reason Michelle only truly understands it when Angie says it. Maybe because she trusts Angie more than Bruzeman?  Maybe Michelle only listens to womansplaining?  Maybe Michelle is a secret history buff and just really fucking loves the Constitution?  I have no idea.

 

Michelle goes HAM on the obsessive compulsive cleaning from this point forward.  We’re treated to half a chapter about Michelle’s process, which makes me feel like…wow.  I mean, I just cleaned my litter-box closet and bathroom, and I STILL feel like it’s going to need work again in another hour.  I get winded hand washing my tiny kitchen floor, for crying out loud, and here’s Michelle cleaning every inch of her mansion with nothing but a bucket and some Soft Scrub.  Dang, girl.  Jada’s scrubbing out all of the closets in her house and they don’t even contain litter boxes.  Just clothing.  How dirty does your clothes closet get?  I’ve never cleaned mine, so I have no idea.  This is relevant to the story, though.  Apparently the insides of Michelle’s closets are dusty, which she notices when she’s cleaning out her daughter’s closet.  She notices because there’s a spot that isn’t dusty.  The floorboards also don’t quite match up in that spot, waaaaaay in the back.  Hmmmmmm.  

 

Now here’s the difference between me and Michelle.  I wouldn’t even notice something like that.  I’d think “oh no dust.  I’m finished!”  Then I’d go drink a beer and watch some Rosemary & Thyme, or have a dance party with the dogs while listening to 50s diner music or something.

 

Michelle, however, isn’t a lazy slob.  She lifts up the floorboards and discovers bags and bags of money.  Michelle grabs Pookie and hugs him while she suddenly realizes this is why they’ve always thrived financially, even during the recession.  They were never living a flashy life (for that neighborhood…I personally think their lifestyle is quite fancy), but somehow even when other people in Frank’s industry (Clinton) were struggling, they never once had a problem.  Well, duh.  I mean, really.

 

Angie continues to try to hide her pregnancy, despite the obvious signs.  She’s caught napping by her nice, married, funny, smart, handsome coworker Michael.  Michael is another attorney who is much more experienced in domestic relations matters, and he’s agreed to help Angie with Jada’s complicated case.  Michael bursts Angie’s bubble of righteousness.  He knows this game, and Clinton’s lawyer has beaten them every step of the way.  With Jada as the earner, Clinton’s most likely going to get the house.  Jada’s support network – her parents- live out of the country.  This is going to take investigators and time and lots of aggressive litigation.  Why wasn’t she working with him from the get-go?  

 

Michael has also been helping Angie in the process of getting an apartment, and she’s finally found one that’s not too expensive and not too terrible in what is otherwise an extremely expensive neighborhood.  She’s so fatigued after the move that when Jada and Michelle show up, Angie confesses that she’s pregnant by her estranged husband.  Angie’s not sure what she wants to do.  Jada and Michelle are supportive.  If she wants to end the pregnancy, they’ll be there, and if she wants to keep the baby, they’ll be there.

 

Back at the Russo household, the family continues to fall apart.  Michelle waits until the kids are upstairs before working up the courage to tell Frank that she just can’t testify for him.  Frank loses his shit.  He throws a glass of scotch, then he pushes her, just hard enough that she falls and hits her eye on the corner of the counter.  Of course, he’s shocked. He didn’t mean to hurt her, it was an accident! She’s bleeding, and he tries to blot the blood with clean towels.  He wants to take her to ER.  Michelle, showing some smarts for once, tells Frank she’s not going anywhere with him.

 

The next day,Michelle calls Jada and asks for a big favor.  A really big favor.  A favor Jada can decline, if she’s uncomfortable.  Michelle wants Jada to open a safety deposit box with her name, and hide the keys someplace secret.  Not in the house or at work, somewhere else.  Jada sees the big bruise under Michelle’s sunglasses and flat out asks Michelle if the box is to hide drugs.  Michelle says no, but that it’s something she’s hiding from Frank. At this, Jada agrees.  She’s going to open the account at another bank, in another city.  

 

OK, here’s another little stumbling block in this book.  Jada is being litigated for all of her cash and assets, and she’s now going to open a safety deposit box in her name, now that court proceedings have started?  Clinton’s lawyer is going to be all over that the minute he gets a court order allowing Clinton a portion of Jada’s assets.  If she doesn’t disclose them, she’s going to be in legal trouble, and they’re going to find them anyway. Don’t make a paper trail, Jada!  What are you doing?!

 

The day of Jada’s court hearing, the women band together.  Several witnesses appear for Clinton.  Angie does some cross examination and thinks she’s made a hit when calls out Clinton’s mom for lying about being an alcoholic.  After all, you don’t want an irresponsible, alcoholic, judgment bungling woman living with the children, do you?  Unfortunately the Judge is pissed – they call it Alcoholics Anonymous for a reason, and it’s a great thing that Clinton’s mom is going and turning her life around, blah blah.  Turns out the Judge is also an AA member.  Whoops!  Clinton’s girlfriend Tonya also shows up and weaves a web of lies.  Supposedly she’s just the babysitter, etc.  She’s a great actress, and even faints when Angie asks her about her adulterous relationship with Clinton.  Even someone from the bank comes and testifies.  She’s mad that Jada was promoted above her, and testifies to the amount of time Jada spent “selfishly” working so many hours while abandoning her family.  Because, you know, everyone just loves working 60 hour weeks.  It’s super fun!

 

The hearing turns a little when Clinton takes the stand and Angie manages to catch in all sorts of lies. They prove he knows nothing about the children’s favorite foods or about their troubles in school.  They bring on Angie’s expert witness, a child psychologist, who’s going to blow the bigoted social worker’s testimony out of the water, when Clinton’s attorney points out the witness’s license has lapsed.  Whaaaat?  This totally reminded me of that movie The Verdict, when a procedural technicality destroys what would otherwise be a brilliant argument.

 

The judge makes a temporary ruling.  While Clinton lied about his involvement in the kids’ lives, the fact that Jada’s hours were long and that there was an unprescribed Xanax in her system at the same time as she was friends with a family accused of selling drugs is something a judge can’t overlook.  For the time being, Clinton is awarded full custody.  

 

Jada gives up.  She sees this is a losing battle.  She’s not going to work towards appeal.  She has to focus her energy on moving out and moving on for the time being.  Angie’s lonely, exhausted, and unsure about the pregnancy, so she invites Jada to move in with her.  Win-win.  

 

Michelle comes over to help Jada move and tells the women that she knows Frank’s guilty.  She explains the counter incident.  Jada tells her that this is step one on the downhill destination Domestic Violence City.  Michelle says no, it was an accident.  It wasn’t like he hit her, she just lost her balance.  Oh, Michelle.  She says she’s not going to testify for him, but she won’t testify against him, either.  He’s going to have to go through this trial on his own, and she won’t lie for him, but she’s not going to put him in jail.  He’s made mistakes, and he’s sorry, and she’s going to try to keep the family together.

 

Michael asks her to dinner.  She horrified because he’s married.  Michael tells her he’s been divorced for six months but separated for almost two years, he just doesn’t broadcast his personal drama all over the office.  Michael points out that technically Angie is still the married one.  Hah!  Good one!  The next day, at the clinic, Angie makes up her mind.  She walks out as they call her hame.  She’s going to keep the baby.

 

Jada contemplates her options and asks Michelle how she would feel about kidnapping Jada’s kids.  Ugh, so impractical!  There’s the illegal aspect, and the money…so it’s really bad timing when moments later Jada is fired from her job.  That $10k loan that she and Michelle pushed through?  Yeah, even though Jada cancelled the check, it was pushed through improperly, without going through proper procedures, and it was unsecured.  Job over.  

 

At the Russo house, Michelle is going about her business, doing laundry, when Frank storms in.  He demands to know where the money is.  “What money?”  Michelle asks, all wide eyed and innocent.  “Oh, you mean the evidence that you hid in your daughter’s room?”   Michelle unloads on Frank for ruining their lives, how she wanted so hard to believe him, but he kept lying, and putting them in danger.  Frank assures her it’s not drug money.  Michelle is flabbergasted by this statement.  She literally can’t even.  she tells Frank that she was so horrified that she burned the money.  No more evidence!  Wasn’t that smart of her?  Now he can’t go to jail!

 

Frank tells her he needs that money.  Like, now.  Then he hits her in in the face.  She falls, and he hits her again, and then Pookie bites Frank in the leg.  Good dog!  While Frank fights off the dog, Michelle flees the house.  She makes it into the car, and Pookie chases after her and jumps in.  She leaves just as the school bus pulls up, and shouts for her kids to get in the car, too.  They all escape the house together.  Of course, they move in with Angie and Jada.

 

As cramped as it is in that apartment with three grown women, two children, and a dog, it becomes a comfort for the women.  They’re all together in love and safety, and it’s better than being alone.  

 

Jada takes a minimum wage job as a clerk at a grocery store, and reflects on how much harder the actual “work” aspect is in a low paying, no responsibility job.  You have to stand on your feet all day, every minute of your time is micro managed, and you have to deal with the public.  It’s so much harder than a job that requires formal education and decision making.  She has to do it, though, because she needs to be making money to comply with the court order, and she wants to continue to see her kids.  The kids just don’t understand why they can’t live with Jada, and she’s the kind of good person who’s not going to shit talk their dad to their faces.  Ugh.  Jada can’t live like this.  She comes to a decision – if the law won’t work for her, she’s going to have to circumvent it.  

 

Michelle goes to visit Bruzeman, and she takes Michael with her.  Michael brings the hammer down.  Michelle will not testify for Frank, and she will not appear in court with her abuser.  Bruzeman tries to tell Michelle how sorry Frank is, and how he loves her, and Michael tells him to shut it.  She agrees to talk to Frank on the phone, and Frank keeps bringing up the money.  What did she expect?  She’s hurting at how Frank has turned on her, but she keeps her dignity.  Michelle’s growing some lady-balls.  She goes and pawns the jewelry she’s wearing, including her wedding ring.  She comes back home to the apartment and Angie is prostrated in bed.  She’s just received an engagement announcement.  Lisa and Reid are getting married – and he and Angie aren’t even officially divorced.  Yeah, good luck with that, Lisa.  In the next scene, Angie and her divorced parents are in court, and Angie’s divorce is made final.

 

Jada’s parents fly in to visit, and they’re horrified to hear of her friends’ troubles.  They don’t understand what’s wrong with American men.  They make this seem like a nationality thing, and not a thing humans have been doing to each other (men and  women) for millions of years.  Jada’s mom is concerned that Jada isn’t relying on the church more, but Jada points out that Clinton’s girlfriend is a member of that church, and that her secular girlfriends (one of which is Jewish) are being more Christ-like to her than her own congregation.  Jada’s mom tells her that the church will help her, but Jada knows she has to help herself.  Jada’s dad doesn’t see why Jada just can’t move the kids to the islands with them.  He casually tells her that she’ll just have to kidnap them and bring them down.  You know, because extradition orders aren’t something he’s worried about or anything like that.  Her parents mention that they know this fabulous lawyer who can help her do this.  He’s so fabulous, that he’s like, above the law.  He’s connected and stuff.  

 

The women sit down with a bunch of wine (non-alcoholic for Angie, thank you very much) and plot. Jada bitterly says that Clinton’s probably knocking back malt liquor in front of her kids right now while they’re drinking wine in front of Michelle’s kids.  Seriously, Jada, let’s work on this judgmental streak.  They settle in with some revenge fantasies.  Michelle should just turn Frank in, or murder him.  Angie would like to see Reid publically embarrassed.  Jada wants her kids back and she wants to boot Clinton out of her house, and maybe see Tonya disappear.  Michelle softly admits that she wants to be free from Frank, but she’s not sure how.  She’d love to start her own business.  They all want to move.  Michelle, now in serious mode, says that she might have a serious, non drunk idea.

 

In the next chapter, the women have adopted aliases.  They use this alias to set up a meeting with Reid.  Michelle pretends to be a wealthy woman seeking legal counsel regarding an inheritance.  Meanwhile, Angie sets up a meeting with Lisa, using the former best friend angle.  She says she wants to congratulate Lisa, and that she has some things to give her.  She mentions the sapphire ring.  She also left some things at the house she’d like to pick up, so how about a meet up? She confesses to Lisa that she’s still mad and embarrassed, and asks Lisa to keep their meetup a secret from Reid.  Lisa, eager to get her hands on the ring, agrees.

 

Jada and Michelle buy a bunch of really sexy clothing and lingerie, which they charge on Frank’s credit card. They also buy bus tickets. After their shopping is done, she shows them a business card – Michelle is setting up a house cleaning service.  From here on out, she’s relying on herself.  She cuts up Frank’s card.  

 

Jada also makes an appointment to meet this super human Bridgetown lawyer, Samuel, in Boston.  After all, she’ll have business in Boston soon enough, oh yes. She prepares her girlfriends for what she wants to do.  She’s going to take her children out of the country, one way or another.   Angie doesn’t want to hear this, but she understands. Michelle will help, and Angie will do what she can without implicating herself.  After all, Angie’s professional license depends on conduct.  Not sure where this attitude was when she single handedly took on Jada’s complicated custody case in the first place.

 

Michelle and Jada dress in their sexy clothes, and Michelle keeps her appointment with Reid.  She tells him about her fake inheritance and marital pre-nup issues while flirting scandalously with him.  She confesses that she has a lover, another woman.  She trusts his discretion and agrees they’ll have to iron out the fees.  She’s not greedy, she says, but she thinks she could settle for 100 million from her soon to be ex-husband. She suggests that she and Reid meet at a bar after work, and of course he agrees.  

 

Angie meets Lisa in a restaurant, and goes there looking as dumpy as possible.  She really wants to build up thin, blonde Lisa’s ego.  Lisa just assumes that Angie has gotten fat, because Angie has not told Reid about the pregnancy.  They have two hours before Angie has to be at the old house in Marblehead.  Game on.

 

Jada meets Samuel and finds her mother has already explained the situation to him.  She feels self conscious because she’s also in her very revealing clothing, but he treats her respectfully.  She tells him she feels she has no choice but to break the law.  Samuel tells her the legal implications of moving her kids to Barbados, but points out that as an American, if she were to set up an account with a certain amount of cash in the Cayman Islands, the law would look the other way.  She’d be able to start a new life, and anyone with a banking background can find work on the Cayman Islands.  He tells her while he can’t condone breaking the law, he also can’t tolerate injustice, and he believes she is a victim of the injustice of the court system. He agrees that she needs to do what is best for her children.  Feeling hope for the first time in ages, she gives him her number.  Then she takes off to meet up with Michelle.

 

Jada meets Michelle and Reid at the bar, and proceeds to fondle Michelle while flirting openly with Reid.  Reid pretty much loses his mind over how hot both these women are, as well as the interracial aspect.  Apparently that’s a big no-no in WASP circles.  Michelle and Jada are setting up a seduction scene.

 

Lisa tries to pawn off Angie by saying she brought Angie’s remaining items with her, but Angie, in a stroke of inspired brilliance, insists that she’s also left a journal behind.  She didn’t mention it to Lisa earlier because it was super personal.  They have to go back to the house.  They have to!  Angie opens the ring box in the dark, and shows Lisa a fairly good paste imitation of what is supposed to be a multiple thousand dollar ring, and Lisa agrees to go back to the house.

 

Michelle, Jada, and Reid arrive at the house, the women faking drunk.  Reid leaves them alone while he gets more drinks, and they partially strip.  They manage to lure him upstairs to bedroom, and entice him to strip for them.  They spread condoms around, and basically set a very incriminating scene.  Under the guise of lubing him up, they end up super gluing him to the mattress, and then proceed to take some very incriminating, naughty polaroids.  They appear in a few of them, taking selfies before they were a thing.  

 

Angie and Lisa arrive at the house, and Angie makes a big deal of thinking that Reid is in the house, which she specifically requested not happen.  Lisa, in an effort to prove that they’re alone, opens the door to the bedroom.  Of course, Reid is horrified when Lisa walks in, but the ball drops when Angie follows her.  Jada invites them to join in, and it’s hilarious.  There’s a huge scene, and Angie’s revenge is sweet.  

 

Michelle returns home to find that tons of people have contacted her business P.O. box to request job interviews and also to request her services…as a housekeeper, not as a faux lesbian.  This gives her the confidence she needs for her meeting with Michael and the District Attorney.  She insists upon her own innocence, but the DA tells her that the fact that she ostriched herself to Frank’s illegal activities looks like she was just playing dumb because the benefits were so great.  The DA tells her that if she can give them something against Frank, she can walk.  

Angie feels great after her revenge.  She meets up with Michael and tries to lie about Jada’s plans for the future.  She tells him she’s not interested in appeal, but nothing else.  Michael tries to talk to her about his feelings for her, and she’s surprised.  She says she doesn’t know why he’s interested her, but her life is too complicated right now.  Michael says he’d love to help her through that, after all, that’s the point of companionship, but stops himself.  He knows no means no.  Angie feels badly, and tries that whole “it’s not you, it’s me” thing, and finally blurts out that she’s pregnant.  Michael responds with no shit, of course she is.  Then he asks if that’s the only thing holding her back.  Well, yeah.  Michael says he doesn’t mind, he likes her, package deal, and that’s that.  She likes him too, so they make out.  

 

Michelle goes to see Frank, meeting him in a public diner.  She tells him she’s being cagey with the kids.  She’s not going to trash talk their dad, and he’s not convicted of anything yet.  Frank pushes again for reconciliation, but Michelle’s not having it.  Suddenly Frank starts pushing about the money again.  Frank threatens her, tells her he’s going to lie to the DA and say she was a drug mule, that she was involved the whole time.  Michelle reminds him about the restraining order and gets the hell out of there.  Fortunately, someone from Angie’s firm was there recording the whole conversation.  Now they have something to give the DA.

 

Jada and Michelle drive around with a stopwatch, timing how long certain trips take.  They realize the best way for Jada to scoot out with her kids, even under the eyes of the person supervising her visits, is to do it during the hubbub at the end of church.  Jada’s mom was so right, the church will be there for her!  Michelle secretly calls Samuel and asks him how she can help Jada.  Will money help?  What about a lot of money?   Samuel is interested.

 

Jada goes and closes out the safe deposit box. During all this time, she has never asked Michelle what was in it.  Even now, she doesn’t.  She empties the box, brings the bags to the car, and she and Michelle drive away.  

 

Angie invites both her parents for dinner.  It’s time to tell them about the baby.  Predictably, her parents start fighting almost immediately, and Angie uses the news to shut them up.  Most useful pregnancy announcement ever!  Although really, since Angie was working with her mom every day, I’m really surprised her mom didn’t figure it out.  Michael figured it out, and he’s never been pregnant.  Angie tells her parents they need to get their shit together, because they’re all going to be a family, and she needs their support.

 

Michelle has Michael set up an appointment with the DA.  She gives a statement on the record and gives them a large bag of cash.  She explains how she eventually found the hidden money.  The DA is understandably annoyed that it wasn’t discovered in the search.  Maybe he should hire Michelle?  Michelle tells the truth but not the whole truth, and leaves the whole safety deposit box thing out of the story.  What they don’t know can’t hurt, at this point.

 

Michael and Angie continue their romance.  Michael explains that it’s not only women who are hurt by divorce.  His own wife packed up and left with his two daughters, and he misses them like crazy. This…is a bizarre relationship.  Angie tells him that the other women will be moving out soon, and thinks about how maybe he’ll move in.  This seems fast to me, although who knows.  They both know what they do and don’t want in a relationship, so at least they’re not going through the song and dance of traditional dating, where someone is perfect except that they don’t want kids when you want ten, or something like that.

 

Right before Jada is set to kidnap her kids, she tells the women she has one more thing she’d like to do.  Presumably it’s something awful, because the women lose their composure.  It has something to do with Jada’s house.  Jada tells them that they don’t understand the anguish that house caused, and how Clinton abandoned all responsibility to it, only to move in with his girlfriend shortly after they separated.  It’s killing Jada.  She knows it’s wrong, but she doesn’t care.  

 

Michelle calls Clinton and tells him she’s moving, and offers him some free furniture.  Clinton, despite hating Michelle for assuming she’s a felon, agrees because he’s a greedy bastard.  Clinton agrees to meet Michelle at her house at a specified date and time.  

 

Michelle needs an alibi, so she goes to see Frank in jail.  This is a perfect alibi because she has to check in.  They argue, and Michelle tells him that he can’t think of her as stupid anymore, because she’s going to divorce him.  She then tells him she’s going to testify against him, and leaves.

 

Jada and Samuel go to pick up the kids, and she says she has to go back into the house to pick up her Bible.  The court appointed chaperone isn’t with her, ;and will meet them at church.  I missed something here, was this OK because there was a lawyer present?  Regardless. She waits until she sees Clinton and Tonya leave to go walk towards Michelle’s house, and she slips inside and sets a fire.  Yes!  Arson!

 

Meanwhile Angie is set up at Michelle’s house, ready to hand over the furniture.  This way, both she and Michelle have great alibis.  Clinton and Tonya know she’s there because she’s the lawyer, making the transaction “official,” or some bullshit like that, and Jada’s best friend is given an alibi by the government.  Michael was there to assist in carrying the furniture, and it’s on the walk to back to the house that they all see the fire.  

 

Jada meets Samuel at the church. There is an amusing sequence where they sing “Light a Torch for Jesus.”  I’m not familiar with this hymn, as it’s not in my super liberal Protestant hymnal, but the name seems quite appropriate for the story.  The sermon is about the burning bush.  Hell yeah!  During the shuffle to call the choir to the front of the church, she and Samuel are able to shuffle the kids out of the building and into the car outside.  Jada must go to a very large church with a huge choir, because I just can’t picture this happening in my church, which is only ever crowded on Christmas Eve.  Before they leave, Jada explains the situation to the kids.  She’s not going to kidnap them without their consent.  Obviously, they agree, and she and Samuel head for the airport.

 

Somehow Michelle and her kids are able to go see Jada off at the airport. Oh right…this was published in 2000, before airport security became as restrictive as it is now.  Jada arrives where Michelle’s told her to meet them and is confused.  She was going to fly to Barbados to her parents.  Michelle says that this is the right terminal…for the Caymans.  Jada insists she didn’t have enough money to set up in the Caymans, that’s why she’s risking Barbados, despite the possibility of extradition.  Michelle goes through the ticket process with Jada, who realizes she’s been upgraded to first class.  The attendant starts to say something is wrong, because Jada, can’t possibly be flying first class (the implication being because Jada is black) but ritzy blonde Michelle interrupts and says Jada is her sister, and her sister always flies first class.  This shuts the attendant up pretty quickly. Michelle and Samuel tell Jada they’ve fixed up the legal and financial barriers for Jada, and she will now be able to start a new life in the Caymans, free from threat of extradition.  

 

Angie shows up at the last minute.  She’s been driving around in Jada’s car, essentially in blackface, letting Clinton follow her while Jada made off with the kids.  Angie eventually lost Clinton and removed her disguise, and so she’s here.  I’m not really sure how…it’s hard to lose someone on a highway, right?  This bit of fascinating plot necessity is glossed over.  Michelle hands Jada a paper sack, and when Jada looks inside, it’s full of money.  Michelle didn’t turn all of the money over to the police, after all.  This seems an odd choice of receptacle, to me.  Michelle should have just painted a cartoon dollar sign on the outside of the sack, because it couldn’t be any more obvious.  I don’t know why she didn’t go with the ole’ hollowed out Bible routine, or something like that.  

 

Angie and Michelle say a tearful goodbye to their friend, promising to visit as soon as Angie’s baby is old enough to fly.  Jada can never come back, but there’s nothing to prevent them from taking regular vacations to the Caymans. Jada counts the money on the plan, another stunningly subtle move. The money they’ve given Jada amounts to about $500,000.  Samuel explains that Michelle wanted nothing to do with the money, and that she saw it as Jada’s chance to repair her life.  Samuel has also arranged job interviews for Jada, because why not?  I wonder what will happen when her name and face hit the news as a kidnapping fugitive.  Maybe people in the Caymans don’t care about international criminal charges.  I hope not, because $500k isn’t enough to support a person with three kids indefinitely.  

 

Michelle and her kids have moved to a new place out of town, and Angie goes back to her apartment to find her parents and Michael there to keep her company.  Michael hands her an envelope with a letter from Jada and Michelle, as though Michelle hasn’t just moved to the next suburb.  The letter contains a thank you note, a promise to babysit from Michelle, and free offers of Christmas and summer vacations in the Caribbean from Jada.  It also contained a polaroid of Michelle, smiling at the camera (picture obviously taken by Jada) while Reid looked down at his superglued crotch in the background.  Classy.  She should hang that baby over the mantle.  Angie is grateful for her friends, and knows she’s going to have a hell of a story to tell her child when her child grows up.

The end!  This book had some moments that made me stop and question reality, but was otherwise a fun book about women who became stronger through hardship.  It veered into kooky revenge fantasy territory here and there, which was why the more obvious plot holes weren’t too big of a problem.  It also did not make the mistake of putting down men in general. There are several likeable male characters, including one who made the same mistake as Angie’s cheating husband, Reid, but who felt remorse, and  changed, instead of continuing to make the same mistakes.  My criticism is that while it’s great that Angie and Jada found new male companions, those male companions were straight out of the author’s imagination.  They were Gary Sue types, too good to be true.  If you read this with the idea that it’s a polite vengeance fantasy where no one really gets hurt, it’s not bad.  If you read it with the expectation that you’ll be able to do any of the things that they do in this book, you’re going to wind up in jail.  

 

 

 

 

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