For Eileen Goudge to write a novel better than Woman in Red is something I never saw coming until I opened to the first page of this remarkable book. Nevertheless, in Domestic Affairs, Goudge has done just that! She brings us a love story on so many levels that it grabs you in the beginning and never lets go until the last page. First and foremost, this love story is about friends-and how although their friendship definitely is a roller coaster over time, it never loses its effect on the lives of the people it touches, nor the reader. It is also about how only a deep friendship like this can change people’s lives forever especially when secrets shared in that relationship remain unspoken for years.
The story starts with the friendship and alliance of Abigail Armstrong with Lila and her brother, Vaughn, Meriwhether. These three grow up from children to teens, sharing what at a certain point is essentially too much to share. These secrets they share will direct the paths their lives take as they are torn apart in their youth, but then brings them back together later as adults. When Abby’s mother, the housekeeper for Lila and Vaughn’s family is unceremoniously fired and chased from the only home Abby has ever known, horrific feelings and secrets go with Abby and her mother, Rosalie, as they leave the Meriwhether estate.
Fast forward twenty-five years and the proverbial shoe is on the other foot as Lila, once a high member of New York society, is brought down by the results of her husband’s illegal actions. When he cowardly commits suicide rather than take his punishment, Lila’s life falls apart. She is a pariah to those she once courted and was courted by. She is left without anything and the only work she could take on was if someone wanted a socialite to run a party. With not much call for that “skill”, in an ironic twist, Lila is saved when she is hired to be a housekeeper in the now very successful, Martha Stewart-like, media maven, Abigail Armstrong. While this NEW Abby now will only deal decently with her housekeeper, in memory of her now deceased mother, she is quite the opposite in the business world. A sharp tongue and iron fist enables Abigail to run a top-notch business, while trying to still hold on to her husband and family. When Lila becomes her housekeeper, the revenge should be sweet, but is it?
Into this duo, a third important female character, Concepcion Delgado, enters. As a mother who wants to revenge her daughter’s tragic death at what she believes is caused by Abby’s company and how it runs its “sweatshops” she is on a mission to confront the people responsible. The cost of producing inexpensive while highly desirable linens is too much when Concepcion’s daughter pays the price with her life. Concepcion travels to find the driven leader of this company that she feels took her child from her.
As these three very different lives come headed on a collision course and confrontation, Eileen Goudge has not settled to just reward readers with the results of this meeting. Goudge has not forgotten to also expertly stir into this mix tragedies, illness, suicide, teen angst and the only thing needed to complete the end product, a former lover. All that a reader could want is there for them to sink their teeth into. The final morsel leaves the reader satisfied but also sorry to see it end. This is a MUST READ for everyone!