When Lavinia Starkhurst’s husband is killed in a freak accident, she takes to the open road and meets a number of strangers, all with struggles of their own. Through these unexpected and occasionally hilarious encounters, Lavinia reflects on her past deeds, both good and bad, explores her two marriages, her roles as caregiver and wife, hoping all the while for self-acceptance and something to give her new life meaning.
The above paragraph is from the book synopsis so it’s not a spoiler to tell you that despite their surname, neither Lavinia nor her recently deceased husband, Chip, were star-crossed lovers. Both had been married before and came into the new relationship with their hearts in other places. For Lavinia, her attention was on the 5 children she had with Potter, a man she married when she was a young woman choosing love over career. Chip also had a former wife, plus several extramarital affairs, and a best friend named Mel who’s as present in the marriage as he is, indeed even more since when Chip dies, Mel is left to help Lavinia move on in whatever capacity. And in the first few pages, indeed right after the death scene and again at the funeral, the author points out that Lavinia’s focus was never and could never fully rest on her husband of fifteen years. The title of the book then, ushers in the questions:
- What change does Chip’s death mean for each of his survivors, and the agreement he had with each one?
- Can there even be an amendment to Lavinia’s snarky, timeworn attitude?
- Of the new relationships she will start, which of them will be the catalyst for change?
Parrish is a clever writer and her witty inclusions broke up the narrative with what was always an unexpected but welcome surprise. For example on page 19, Mel offers Lavinia his old car to take a road trip with a disclaimer, ‘I wouldn’t hand you a lemon.” and Lavinia replies, “That would be bitter if you did.”
The author took a difficult subject and a probably relatable but not particularly likable character and spun a engaging page-turner that was a quick read but also a thoughtful character study. With quick scene changes, rapid fire dialogue and an assortment of colorful characters, all of whom receive some substantial development so they all felt multi-dimensional, reading The Amendment like a bit like watching a good movie.
There were a lot of characters introduced within the first few pages and by the funeral, the complex relationships felt a little overwhelming.
There were moments where Lavinia seemed obsessed with fat, and while I think her comments were meant to show how she was assessing herself as a newly single woman and how she measured up to other women of her age group, they often felt like fat shaming.
- p. 34. Karen had gained weight. Lavinia hadn’t.
- p. 52 Lavinia could see how fat her (another grieving woman at the support group) fingers were.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading the book and recommend it for fans of Anna Quindlen and Elizabeth Strout, both of whom also write books that feature strong, mature, female characters.