“When Sylvie Serfer met Richard Woodruff in law school, she had wild curls, wide hips and lots of opinions. Decades later, Sylvie has remade herself as the ideal politician’s wife – her hair dyed and straightened, her hippie-chick wardrobe replaced by tailored suits. At fifty-seven, she ruefully acknowledges that her job is staying twenty pounds thinner than she was in her twenties and tending to her senator husband. Lizzie, the Woodruffs’ youngest daughter, is a recovering addict, whose mantra HALT (Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?) helps her keep her life under control. Still, at twenty-four, trouble always seems to find her. Diana, an emergency room physician, has everything Lizzie failed to achieve – a husband, a young son, the perfect home – and yet she’s trapped in a loveless marriage. With temptation waiting in one of the ER’s exam rooms, she finds herself craving more. When Richard’s extra-marital affair makes headlines, the three women are drawn into the painful glare of the national spotlight. Once the press conference is over, each is forced to reconsider their lives, who they are and who they are meant to be”.

 Sylvie Woodruff, wife of Senator Richard Woodruff, has spent years supporting her husband and his political career any way she can: her life completely revolves around his needs and schedule. So she’s devastated when she discovers that Richard has been having an affair, and runs away to her childhood holiday home where she can have some space from her husband and the reporters who’ve been hounding her ever since the story broke.

Also affected by Richard’s behaviour are his daughters, Diana and Lizzie. Diana is an emergency room doctor stuck married to a man she doesn’t love. Her parents have convinced her to allow her sister Lizzie, a former addict, to baby-sit her son Miles while she’s at work, something that Diana isn’t 100% comfortable with. As for Lizzie, she’s wanting to regain her family’s trust and rebuild her life, but how will she cope when she’s thrown a curve ball?

I couldn’t help but feel that not a lot really happens in this book: what little action there is takes place at the beginning of the story and even that seemed a little lacklustre. Part of the problem could be that we are now so used to politician’s indiscretions they’re no longer shocking –  they’re almost par for the course, and so Sylvie finding out about her husband’s dalliance just wasn’t a dramatic enough event to hinge a novel upon.

I found it hard to really relate to or empathise with any of the three female protagonists. They all came across as extremely self-centred, and Diana and Lizzie both make incredibly stupid decisions for two grown, supposedly intelligent, women. None of the main females really seem to care about anything other than themselves and they weren’t particularly strong or inspirational. Selma, Sylvie’s mother, was much more my type of heroine: intelligent and forthright, she made a fantastic matriarch.

Perhaps it would have helped to have known more about the main characters’ pasts, particularly in relation to Lizzie’s addiction, which would have helped me to understand her actions in the book. Possibly Weiner could have made use of some flashbacks or had characters reminiscing about Lizzie’s past behaviour.

I did however think that Weiner did a wonderful job with the character of Diana’s son, Miles. It would have been very easy for her to have just written in a generic kid to look cute and make his mother feel guilty about the problems with her marriage. Instead, she writes a far more interesting and realistic little boy, complete with neuroses and annoying habits.

Weiner’s writing style was enjoyable, and I particularly liked some of her descriptive passages: the house that Sylvie stays in sounds wonderful, practically idyllic (apart perhaps for the dead mouse!) and the descriptions of the food Sylvie learns to cook are very good, and extremely tempting – although it was a little unrealistic that she seemed to effortlessly, and practically overnight, turn into a gourmet chef.

Overall, I felt that ‘Fly Away Home’ was well-written and contained an interesting assortment of characters, though they could have been developed better had the author delved deeper into their backgrounds. I thought the book was let down a little by its storyline, which just didn’t contain enough action for me. I did enjoy Weiner’s descriptive passages and the character of Miles was beautifully written – he was one of the best child characters that I’ve read in a very long time.

3 stars

Advertisements