This story is about a chance encounter on a Manhattan street between a man and a woman that, it turns out, have some history. The POV of the guy is what we hear and he is plainly obsessed with his old acquaintance Mary, who he hasn’t seen in quite a while. But “plainly” is not an accurate word since right off we are treated to a methodical description of Mary’s appearance that is so sensual that it would make the god Eros proud. And there is a nice observation in the science of dalliance when the guy realizes that this random encounter will end just as quickly as it began unless he makes a segue to another encounter, this one planned rather than aleatory.
Back to reading against type: it’s a shame that more men are not likely to pick up this book because if they did, maybe they would gain a greater appreciation of how marriage can be viewed by the other gender. This story is told in first person, it’s Julia’s story and the marriage is seen from her perspective. We see, Joe, her husband from the outside. I share what I believe is the Jaces’ frustration that we never hear Joe’s side of the story. By the time I got halfway through the novel I was already taking Joe’s side even though I believe that it was the author’s intention that I not do so.
I retain a weird affection for Elliott, the phantom phone-caller, who was really the result of a happy accident. In my original inception of the book, Harry was going to receive a phone call at the very end from an old friend who hadn’t heard of Anna’s death. This caller’s open and heartfelt grief at the news was meant to be Harry’s last straw, and to contrast with Harry’s emotional constipation. But mid-way, I decided to have Harry change his phone number, so that wasn’t going to work any more. And I thought, what if someone called looking for the previous owner of the new number?
Fortune and poor judgment thrust Harry into situations not designed for the squeamish; eventually, I had to stop reading the book on the train to work because the several scenes were so cringe-inducing that my groans and facial gymnastics were attracting more attention than I really wanted. As well, I agree with your assessment of the development of Harry in many ways. In a way, much like in Harry’s relationships on the page, he is a hard man for a reader to like. Even his “good deeds” have a motivation that is questionable at best and lecherous at worst.