Margaret Maguire is 82 years old and in failing health. Widowed during mid-life, she has two daughters who have both experienced failed marriages and are distant from each other. Her granddaughter is her real comfort, her hope for the future.
As she surveys the terrain of her life’s journey, she seeks to pinpoint the moments and choices that have shaped her family.
Her husband, Garfield, is the focal point of these ruminations. He was a domineering man who pointed out everyone else’s faults while remaining blind to his own. She considered him a catch when they married; he was a good-looking, ambitious young man, while she was the plainer sister in her family. She was as surprised as anyone when he settled on her, and she didn’t see the sharp edges of his nature—or those of his mother, for that matter—until it was too late.
While Garfield was respected in the community, he wasn’t a kind man. He bullied Margaret and his daughters, and she wonders about her own complicity. At what point could she have changed that? What’s more, she continued to take pride in his status and good looks even as she regretted being his wife.
Aspects of Evensong—complex characters, great descriptions, a need for connection, and a small-town sensibility—are reminiscent of novels by Kent Haruf and Elizabeth Strout. This slim novel is filled with beautiful writing. It isn’t a cheerful book, but Margaret is a sympathetic character. She is facing down her own weaknesses with clear eyes, trying to come to terms with them. Just like the rest of us, she is sorely in need of grace. (W.W. Norton)