This was my first Jane Green (Jemima J, Another Piece of My Heart) novel, and it will not be my last. I could not put this book down, finished it in 48 hours, and probably would have read it even more quickly if I hadn’t kept stopping to text my best friend about it.
Gabby has been married for eighteen years to Elliot, a gastroentrologist. They have two daughters, sixteen-year-old Olivia and eleven-year-old Alanna. They live in the suburbs of Connecticut, have lots of friends, and a beautiful house. When Gabby goes along for a girls night out to a bar, she’d rather be at home curled up with Elliot, watching a movie. She’s appalled out how the other moms are acting, all dressed up (Gabby doesn’t do “high maintenance.” She was born in England), getting drunk, flirting with men at the bar. When she ends up talking to Matt, an extremely handsome, much younger man in town for business (he’s a tech/social media billionaire), it’s really just out of boredom. But something clicks inside of her. For the first time in a very long time, Gabby doesn’t feel invisible. Because really, life has become very dull. She wonders what has happened in the last ten years. “How did she an Elliott drift so seamlessly into middle age?” Long after her friends have gone home, Gabby is talking, laughing, and yes, flirting with Matt:
Gabby would never be unfaithful – but it has been years since she felt desirable; years since she felt sexy, beautiful. It is a powerful, heady feeling, and once tonight is over, it will be gone. Once tonight is over, she will once again be a middle-aged, suburban housewife, caught up in the pots and pans of life.
Gabby thinks the chance meeting is the end of it. Of course, it isn’t. But this is not a book about Gabby and Matt. It is the story of Gabby and Elliott, of the compromises of marriage, of the mistakes we make. And we soon learn that while Gabby and Elliott do have a wonderful relationship, there is a wedge between them. Gabby always wanted a third child. All along, she thought Elliott was with her on this even though it never seemed to be the right time. But one day he made the decision that they’re done, and he got a vasectomy. Gabby was extremely hurt. Now, her best friend Claire suddenly announces she is pregnant (in her forties), and the wound is ripped open. Gabby is emotionally vulnerable when Matt surprises her by reaching out via email. They begin an intense email flirtation. The emails become longer, more personal. Before long, Gabby is having an emotional affair.
Gabby knows this is not good. She has always been of the mind that when it comes to marriage and fidelity, “We’re all going to be attracted to other people at some point, but ultimately it comes down to a choice.” Now she realizes that’s very easy to say when you’ve never been presented with a choice.
The first encounter with Matt was a happy accident, but her next is entirely orchestrated. Gabby meets up with Matt a second time when Elliott is away on a business trip, and it’s impossible not to share her excitement. She tells clueless Elliott an elaborate lie. We’re mad at him for having vasectomy against her wishes, so that makes it okay. In book logic, it totally works. Unfortunately for Gabby, the consequences of her decision to see Matt again are disastrous.
This novel takes you on such a well-crafted ride, I don’t want to give away any spoilers. But suffice it to say that at the midway point of this novel there is a massive, OMG moment. Jane Green sets up this story so brilliantly that every plot turn has the maximum effect on us as readers. We root for Gabby, we shake our head at her, we empathize with Elliott but we want him to stop making his own mistakes. Along the way, we know how we want things to turn out, but we can’t imagine how the story can possibly get there. That’s the genius of Jane Green, and the absolute joy of Tempting Fate.
TEMPTING FATE by Jane Green/St. Martin’s Press/March 25, 2014