Other People's Houses

Carpool mom Frances Bloom is used to taking care of everyone in her orbit, including her neighbors' kids. Most of the problems in her tidy Los Angeles neighborhood are things she can solve, or at least mitigate. But when Frances catches her neighbor Anne Porter in flagrante delicto, on the living room floor with a younger man, she has no idea what to do about it. Anne's affair sends aftershocks through the intertwined lives of four families, including Frances's, and Abbi Waxman deftly maps the tremors in her witty, sharply observed second novel, Other People's Houses.

Waxman (The Garden of Small Beginnings) opens the door to each house, through the viewpoints of Frances, Anne, Frances's cousin Iris and her wife, Sara, as well as Bill, their quiet neighbor whose wife is mysteriously absent. While their children are mostly friends, or at least carpool buddies, the adults' web of relationships is more tenuous and more complicated. As Anne and her neighbors deal with the consequences of her actions, their everyday domestic worries are thrown into sharper relief, to often hilarious (if cringe-worthy) effect.

Waxman dives into the daily frustrations of marriage and child-rearing; the complex social codes that govern friendships, soccer-mom bonds and drive-by acquaintances; and the implications of keeping--or disclosing--someone else's explosive secret. While Anne's affair and several other plot points amp up the drama, Waxman's narrative mostly follows her characters as they deal with small but significant ordinary challenges, in other people's houses and their own. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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