AngelaAngela sat on the side of the bed, lacing up her running shoes, and watched her husband standing at one of the two sinks in their ensuite. Philip was shirtless, a towel wrapped around his waist. It was early spring, predawn, and the overhead light cast unflattering shadows. The bathroom was so very white and cool. Philip leaned in toward the mirror as he shaved. His belly, a hairy fold of flesh, rested on the top of the sink. His legs were ham-pink, and a purple varicose vein wriggled like a worm at the back of his right knee. Angela watched him in the silver-framed mirror. He squooshed his face up, lips pursed. There was a considerable amount of loose skin and so he used his left hand to pull it taut. Scrape, scrape, scrape. Rinse the razor. Tap, tap, tap on the sink. Repeat. Wipe face with towel, wipe the sink with the same towel, and deposit towel in hamper. No towel was ever used twice. He turned back to view himself in the mirror. He posed to the side, and slapped his gut three times, as though in congratulations, and grinned at his big, meaty reflection. He noticed Angela staring. He unwrapped the towel at his waist and waggled his dangling bits in her direction, raising his eyebrows. “I’ve got ten minutes. ” He waggled again, the grin and the heavy eyebrows working in tandem. While it was true Philip’s bits were impressive, the last thing Angela wanted was to have sex with him. In fact, the extent of her distaste for the man to whom she was married came as a bit of a shock. She could just about manage sex after a bottle of burgundy on a Saturday night had put a little Vaseline on the lens, but, in the full-on glare of morning’s bathroom light? No. No, she very much did not want to have sex with Philip. It had been, what, three months since there’d been one of those Saturday nights? She tried not to let her aversion show and walked to the closet to grab her jacket so he wouldn’t see her face. Oh, she thought, let me just get out of this now. Don’t make a fuss, Philip. The image of his belly slapping against her ass popped into her head and she winced. No wife should be thinking this about her husband. But there it was. The little toad hopped in, with no promise of turning into a prince. When had this happened? Slowly, she supposed, over time. They hadn’t always been so distant, so much at odds. When Connor was little there had been parties, and dancing, BBQs in the back yard. Business-related events, mostly, but she’d liked some of the wives, even if all they really talked about were kids. That was okay. She’d only wanted to talk about Connor, anyway. The perfection of him. The joy of him. And with the parties had been champagne, and martinis, and yes, there had been sex, quite a bit of it, to be truthful. Had her desire for Philip fallen away because of the way his body had changed over the years, or was it more than that? It was puzzling, she thought, the way someone so persnickety about household perfection — no dust, no clutter, nothing out of place — could care so little about his own body, and equally baffling that he thought his wife would find it attractive. Philip had never boasted a six-pack. He’d always been slightly on the heavy side, but at least it had been firm flesh back when they’d met. And he’d smelled of some woodsy cologne she liked. What was it about men, wanting their women to be sylph-like and flawless while they went the way of all flesh? For her part she was still slim, not five pounds over what she had been twenty years ago when they married. Her auburn hair shone from expensive conditioners and was kept in the softly curling bob Philip said made her look like Audrey Hepburn. Her hazel eyes were framed by perfectly arched brows and thick lashes. Not a single line hovered over her full lips. All this was expected of her, while just look at Philip there, in all his self-satisfied glory. Those waggling eyebrows. That grin. Those dangling bits, now slightly tumescent. “Can’t,” she said, keeping her voice cheerful. “Got to get this run in. I’m at the Pantry this morning. ” Philip rewrapped the towel, his grin disappearing. “Again?” “Yes, again. ” “I don’t get it, Angela. ” “I know you don’t. ” She zipped up her windbreaker. “You’ve made that clear. ” “Like emptying the sea with a slotted spoon,” Philip said as he applied deodorant. Angela had begun volunteering at the Our Daily Bread Food Pantry a little over six months ago. One of those frequent fundraising letters had come in the mail, asking for donations. She had written a cheque, of course, but then had begun thinking. She had time on her hands, too much time, in fact. Connor, off at the Lawrenceville boarding school, was home infrequently, and at his age was hardly interested in hanging out with his mother, more was the pity. She had no job outside the home, which was mostly managed by Irina, the twice-a-week cleaning lady, anyway. She had few friends, since she was uninterested in things such as golf or bridge or shopping-and-lunch. She had joined a book club, briefly, but the women (no men) seemed more interested in gossip and wine than Balzac or Morrison. Her greenhouse and beloved orchids were important, a sort of meditation on the solace of beauty, but they didn’t contribute much to the world at large. Ever since Connor had moved to the Lawrenceville boarding school, the restlessness Angela had felt creeping up on her for so long had become impossible to ignore. Running helped, but she couldn’t run all day every day, could she? When she felt that tinge of possibility looking down at the cheque she’d written for the Pantry, she felt perhaps this was what she was being called to do. She telephoned them. Spoke to the nun, Sister Eileen, who ran the place and asked if she could pop in with a cheque and for a chat about volunteering. This is the way it had started. She went once a week, more or less, and the place now mattered to her. Perhaps not as much as her orchids, but still. It was a bone of contention between her and Philip. He didn’t like her heading into what he called The Wilds of Trenton. For some as yet unexplored reason, that made her want to be part of it even more. She looked at Philip again, stepping into his pants now, heaving them up over that belly. “See you tonight. You going to be late?” She shoved her hands in her pockets and jogged down the stairs. “Home by eight. Hey,” he called after her. “Yeah?” “Langs’ for dinner tomorrow night, remember? Can you pick up some gift? She cooks. ” “I’ll find something. ” “Love you,” he called again. “Love you, too. ” Her hand was on the doorknob. Love him? Did she? She had once, she thought. An odd memory flashed through her mind of the two of them, dressed in white linen, playing croquet at a fundraiser for the Princeton Hospital. They drank Pimm’s with mint and cucumber. She wore a fetching wide-brimmed straw hat with silk flowers on it and a slip dress with a drop waist, all very 1930s. He hit his ball into hers with a hard clack and then prepared, as the rules gave him permission to do, to smash hers into the deep wilds. But he didn’t. He looked sideways at her, smiled, and tapped it ever so lightly. Then he stood and touched the rim of his boater, bowing gently. She had loved him in that moment, looking, as he did, like some English lord, so sturdy, a country man, but elegant in his whites, and so gallant. She had loved him then, she was sure. Love. Did she even have the faintest notion of what that word meant? She shook her head and set out into the brightening spring day. It was too early for all this.
No one can express the contradictions of the human spirit as well as Lauren B. Davis. We swim in the wisdom of the language and the complexity of emotions. Even So is one woman's spiritual growth from selfishness to compassion to redemption. It is a totally gripping book by a master author.
In her newest offering, Lauren B. Davis turns her considerable talent and deeply empathetic vision to an exploration of passion. Angela, the novel's protagonist, is a character for every reader who sometimes feels not quite at home in her own life, for every woman (or man) who sometimes wants more, for everybody who laments that their world is a little too beige. With profound insight and precision, Davis portrays desire, with its particularly powerful mix of flesh and imagination, and the (sometimes destructive) power of female sexuality. Ultimately, though, Davis's novel extends far beyond the magnetic world of flesh to the miracle of humans' capacity for forgiveness. In Even So, readers experience the divine. You'll want to buy a copy for your best friend too — you're going to need to talk about this one!
Told with deep intelligence and humanity, Even So is an ode to the transformative power of love in all its difficult forms. It's also a beautiful and devastating rumination on what happens when life gives us all we dreamed of and yet we still yearn for more.
Lauren B. Davis writes perceptively and generously in this well-written, thriller-paced novel of lust and guilt.
In Even So, Lauren B. Davis brings enormous compassion and intelligence to her portrayal of characters trying to live right and live fully in this messy, murky yet blazingly redemptive world.
This novel is an exploration of empathy and how to be loving and forgiving to someone even when the decisions they are making are frustrating, angering, and damaging to other people. I enjoyed Davis’ nuance as she described the choices and consequences of her complex characters.
Davis writes authentically . .. Even So raises enough moral questions to prompt some spirited discussion among book clubs.