What initially seems to be a well-researched period piece soon evolves into much more in Ann-Marie MacDonald's stunning follow-up to her highly praised debut, Fall On Your Knees. It is 1962, and the McCarthy family is moving to Centralia, a Canadian air force station near Niagara Falls. Jack, an officer who never saw combat, takes command of the Central Officer's School. Mimi is the quintessential military wife who "could make a radar station on Baffin Island into a social mecca." Mike, 12, and Madeleine, 9, each quickly make new friends, as they have on previous moves.
But the Cold War looms menacingly over this bucolic outpost the Cuban missile crisis and the moon race dominate the weekly cocktail parties. Jack, in fact, has been enlisted by an old air force buddy to assist in the defection of a Soviet scientist to Canada, and eventually into the hands of NASA. He becomes enmeshed in this covert operation, and Mimi is over-occupied with social obligations; they both miss the signs of the family's biggest threat the fact that Madeleine, along with several classmates, is being sexually abused by their teacher.
A girl is murdered, and an innocent neighbor is convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Madeleine sees no connection between the crime and her own abuse, which her defense mechanisms have locked out of the rest of her life. Jack withholds pertinent information for fear of exposing his defector, and thus causing an intelligence "turf war" with the CIA. After the trial the family moves again, Jack and Madeleine each carrying the burden of a wrong that could have been righted.
Twenty-four years later Madeleine experiences episodes of total disorientation and begins seeing a therapist; the ensuing chapters alternate between her therapy sessions and scenes from her past. MacDonald skillfully draws the reader into the web of her recovery as she gradually recalls secrets she has hidden "like bones buried all over the house."Beautifully rendered, none of the 736 pages of this poignant novel seems superfluous. Characters are painstakingly drawn, and the multiple plots are meticulously tied together, from the opening page to the last. Deborah Donovan is a writer who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and La Veta, Colorado.