A Family Affair: A Novel
Sometimes life can seem like a soap opera, and sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. Such is the case with the McNichol family. A middle-aged and well-respected judge, Anna McNichol is still apprehensive about her grown children and their problems and her elderly mother, who is decompensating from dementia. She also believes her marriage to Chad is over. Though she forgave him once for his infidelity, she wonders if he is straying again. At sixty-two, insisting on going white-water rafting ended up with him perishing during his adventure.
A strong and independent woman, Anna carries the weight of many family secrets and unanswered questions. Raised by Blanche, a single mother, she never knew her father, and her mom would never talk about him. Now, as Blanche is quickly losing her faculties, she mentions the son she gave away, but Anna cannot get coherent answers from her because of her emotional confusion.
There are three McNichol siblings: Jessie, at 31, is the oldest and a competent physician, but she has problems with relationships and anger issues. Twenty-eight-year-old Mike, the middle child, is the image of his beloved dad and is more or less inconsolable at his loss. Finally, the youngest, 24-year-old Bess is a loner, brilliant though she is on the Asperger spectrum and is rather delicate. Yet she is following in her mom's footsteps by attending law school.
Years ago, when Anna realized her marriage was floundering, she continued her education as a lawyer if she needed to support her family, though Chad was a successful therapist. Her schooling led to her later being appointed as a judge causing the breach between her and Chad to become wider, but she does not regret having the foresight to become more independent.
"She was determined she would not be left a penniless divorcee with no prospects. It was hell, law school while mothering, but she did it. Against all odds. Nothing can motivate a young mother like the fear of being left penniless with a family to raise.
"Then it was the boost her achievement gave her ego and brought her up to the finish line, to a place of confidence where she could either leave him or give him another chance. She decided he'd been good and faithful for a few years and had earned another chance, so she let herself fall in love with him all over again. . . ."
Chad's sudden death shocks the whole family, and no one takes it harder than Mike, for his dad was his idol. But there are things about Chad his kids don’t know . . . especially the affair he had when Mike and Jess were young. Their family friend and lawyer reads the will, and Anna and her children are well provided for. Still, Anna is surprised to learn that her children's inheritance coming from Chad's retirement funds and savings are allocated into four equal parts: one-quarter to each offspring, and one to an anonymous recipient. Shocked about this unknown heir, this information is to remain confidential. What the heck?
Anna's antenna rises when a strange woman attends Chad's memorial service. She wonders who she is and why she is there and she intends to find out. As she searches for answers, life goes on, consumed by her work and her children's and mother's problems.
Jessie believes her new beau is neglecting her, but she is smothering him, one of her known traits she can't seem to conquer. Mike is sullen, and at a loss, without the man he looked up to, and ruins a long-term relationship, and Bess is floundering at school until she has a severe episode and needs her family.
Through all these trials and tribulations, Anna remains strong to care for her family until the stress overwhelms her, but blood ties count as they rally around each other. Realizing they all have weaknesses and regrets, they band together to manage their circumstances, knowing they can always rely on each other. Many facets and subplots add interest and dimension to this novel, and through pain and hardship, they make it through learning about themselves and each other, offering an uplifting read.