Book Review: Sweet Ruin & Henderson's House Rules

Book Review: Sweet Ruin & Henderson's House Rules

Sweet Ruin and House Rules reviewed.

Sweet Ruin, by Cathi Hanauer. Atria Books. $24.00.

When it comes to novels, I’m easy to please: Just give me a sympathetic protagonist, literate writing, a bit of suspense, and some snappy social analysis. For some reason, that’s hard to find. Cathi Hanauer nails my checklist, though, with Sweet Ruin, an emotional cliff-hanger built around that hot-button relationship issue—adultery—and set in suburban Mommyland.

Its heroine, Elayna Leopold, is a former magazine editor turned part-time freelancer, married to a workaholic lawyer, and the mother of a six-year-old daughter. So far, so familiar. But two years ago, Elayna lost a baby son, and she’s since settled into a functional depression. The only thing that might lift her out is the cute younger guy who just moved in across the street.

His name is Kevin, spelled T-R-O-U-B-L-E. Because Elayna has a lot to lose, starting with her husband. “I loved Paul,” she tells us. “I did at the beginning, I did six hours ago, and as far as I could fathom, I always would.” They both adore their daughter, Hazel. Hanauer is skilled at showing these loves, as well as the knee-buckling desire that threatens them. And she keeps you guessing about which side of the razor’s edge Elayna will end up on.

Before I forget, full disclosure: I asked Hanauer to become half of Tango’s wise and often hilarious “Double Edge” advice team in 2004. What I know of her (including the essay collection she edited, The Bitch in the House) I like. But life is short, and I wouldn’t have finished her book if it hadn’t hooked me, or agreed to write this review unless I’d truly enjoyed it.


Expert advice

Save your breath because you only need two words to make him commit.
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