From Publishers Weekly
Nelson's (Talking in Bed) first novel in 10 years is set largely in the author's childhood town of Wichita, Kans. Catherine Desplaines and her husband, Oliver, are at a crossroads in their marriage. The much older Oliver has perfected a pattern: marry, stay around for 15 years, then trade up to a younger woman. He and Catherine have been married for 18 years, which might seem impressive if Oliver didn't have a mistress, known only as œthe Sweetheart. Catherine is too preoccupied to notice his infidelities since she's become the guardian of an old friend's teenage daughter, Cattie, after the friend dies suddenly. The girl's impending arrival sends Catherine's mind reeling back to her adolescence, when the infamous BTK (bind-torture-kill) serial killer, who coincidentally makes a reappearance in the novel's present day, terrorized the neighborhood. Plays on the idea of œbinding can grow precious at times, but Nelson effectively explores issues of obligation, responsibility, and the possibility of creating new patterns and freeing ourselves from the past. Chapters from the perspectives of Oliver, Catherine, Cattie, and even Cattie's dog assemble into a coherent, compassionate whole.
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*Starred Review* A short story writer of exhilarating wit and empathy, Nelson returns to the novel after a decade with heightened authority. Tightly coiled, edgy, and funny, this complex tale of transcendent friendship begins with a spectacular death: Misty, a single mother, drives off a cliff. Her surviving daughter, Cattie, is named after Catherine, Misty’s best friend way back when they were young and wild in Wichita. Misty was poor and scrappy; pretty Catherine was the daughter of professors. Wealthy, childless, and married to her much older third husband, philandering Oliver, Catherine is still contending with her rigorous mother’s piercing disapproval even though a stroke has stolen Grace’s ability to speak. It’s a shock to learn that Misty is dead, that she had a daughter, and that Catherine is her namesake’s guardian. Cattie runs away from her Vermont boarding school, embarking on a cross-country odyssey as risky, if not as much fun, as the mad adventures her mother and Catherine miraculously survived. With the supreme recklessness of teen girls, Oliver’s farcical yet poignant dilemmas, Grace’s toughness, a resurgent serial killer, an AWOL soldier, and compelling canine characters, Nelson’s sleekly powerful turbine of a novel riffs cannily on the many meanings of “bound.” --Donna Seaman