A Small Indiscretion, by Jan Ellison (2015)

SmallIndiscretionAnnie Black is 19 years old when she escapes a troubled family for London. She finds temporary work as an office assistant and embarks on a chilly winter of drinking and an affair with her married boss. About twenty years later, she is married and the mother of three children when three things happen – a photo from her time in London arrives in the mail, her adult son is nearly killed in a car crash, and her husband leaves her. The two storylines unfold side by side, with the London arc delivered in the form of a letter Annie is writing to her son after the accident. In sum, her actions from the past come back to affect her entire family in a way that is shocking and yet completely plausible. The plot unfolds quite slowly – it took a long time to determine why Annie was writing to her son, and the reveal was completely unexpected for me, which is always enjoyable. The writing is often beautiful and evocative, and the characters are complex and authentic, though in nearly all cases I wanted to know them even better, especially Malcolm and Louise (her boss and his wife) and Annie’s parents. This is a common challenge for first-person narratives, of course, and Ellison succeeds in developing most of the characters remarkably well, from the solid reliability of Annie’s husband Jonathan to the spritely energy of her daughters. Annie herself is complicated and honest, with her observations serving as cautions to the reader (marriage is a “persistent failure of kindness” (p. 112), the arrival of the photo spawning an indulgence into the dangerous territory of what might have been). Annie is so honest that it is occasionally hard to feel much sympathy for her, especially when her letter to her son reads more like the diary you’d never want anyone to find. This is Ellison’s first full-length novel (her first short story won the O. Henry prize in 2007), and she delivers a truly authentic picture of a middle-aged woman’s life so far, complete with regrets and painful truths. Take your time reading this one – it’s meant to be savoured and reflected upon. My thanks to NetGalley for the advance reading copy.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20382027


About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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