(2006, Atria Books)
Elayna Leopold, 35, lives with her young family in suburban New Jersey, working from home so that she can raise her daughter, Hazel, while her husband, Paul, puts in long hours as a corporate lawyer. Elayna is typical of women who spend their twenties chasing dreams in the city only to spend their thirties chasing children in the suburbs. And yet, no one knows better than she that life can change in an instant. Two years ago her infant son died, sending her into a depression from which she is just emerging, and Elayna finds herself suddenly—thrillingly—craving life's passions again. When she meets Kevin, a young artist with whom she spends more and more time during Paul's absences, Elayna discovers a version of herself she thought was gone forever. As she uncovers yearnings that could destroy everything she cherishes, a threat to Hazel emerges, making Elayna's choices and decisions that much more loaded and terrifying.
A dangerous novel of attachments and adultery, of marital crisis, sexual tension, and one woman's struggle to reconcile her needs and desires with her loves and obligations, Sweet Ruin raises heartrending questions about the challenges of everyday life.
Read Chapter One of Sweet Ruin
Praise and Reviews:
"Hanauer has a poet's eye for detail and a spot-on sense of the specifics of mothering in the suburbs....a compulsively readable story of [Elayna's] awakening"
--Elle (Read Full Review)
"Hazel is one of the best-written children in recent fiction...Hanauer skillfully handles the gray areas of emotional incest in all its weird permutations."
"Moral issues great and small laced with hot sex scenes...make Sweet Ruin a fine poolside choice for thinking moms."
--New York Newsday
"...a slow burn that bursts into a page-turner."
"...sex, suburbia, kids and career are still themes mined by [Hanauer]...but this time she weaves a tale full of drama and tough decisions."
"The suburbs never seemed as sexy as they do in this suspenseful story...."
"Excellent characterizations...[and] dialogue and the spot-on representation of the family dynamic make this book difficult to put down. One keeps waiting for something horrific to happen, but instead the story builds slowly and plausibly. What happens is subtle and ambiguous—as in real life."
--Publisher's Weekly, March 20, 2006
"Skillfully imagined, bittersweet portrait of marriage and
sacrifice...Bravely tackl[es] the complexity of sexual life."
"Given Hanauer's keen perceptions and delicate sensitivity, one cannot help
but acutely feel the emotional and moral turmoil that engulf this winsome
young wife and mother."
"As observant about family life as it is about love and sexual longing. I really didn't want it to end."
--Meg Wolitzer, author of The Position and The Wife
"Cathi Hanauer has perfectly captured the subtleties and nuances of contemporary, suburban motherhood...she has created a character so real, so flawed, so sympathetic, and so familiar...I kept hearing her voice in my head for days after I finished this book."
--Hope Edelman, author of Motherless Mothers
"Sweet Ruin is a juicy, delectable novel, with pitch-perfect dialogue and
characters that leap to fascinating life; every scene unfolds with complexly
intertwined sexual suspense and emotional resonance."
--Kate Christensen, author of The Epicure's Lament
"Cathi Hanauer's wise and generous new novel takes as its subject the loss of a child, the difficulties of marriage and the wages of adultery, but winds up being about nothing less than the miracle—and yes perils—of what it means to be truly alive. It's completely irresistable; be prepared to stay up late."
--Karen Karbo, author of Motherhood Made a Man out of Me