Thursday, September 29, 2016
Mercury by Margot Livesey
Donald and Viv Stevenson are a typical American family. Donald is an optometrist, having moved his family back to Boston when his father's Parkinson's disease grew to be more than his mother could handle alone. Viv gave up a lucrative job in mutual funds to partner with her oldest friend, Claudia, in running a stable and riding academy. They have two children and a satisfying life. Or do they?
As with all families, things happen to upset the normalcy the family strives for. Donald's father worsens and finally dies, leaving him in grief he cannot shake. Viv seems to fare better, her passion reawakened when a customer brings a horse to board. This horse, Mercury, is a magnificent animal and Viv is fascinated and enthralled with him. Soon, her childhood fantasies of being a competitive rider are reawakened and she spends her days riding Mercury, taking care of him and putting him at the center of her world. Before they know it, Donald and Viv have become roommates rather than lovers, passing in their house to assign tasks and discuss the children. They don't take time for themselves as a couple and they become more and more remote from each other. Finally, a crisis occurs and the pair realize how far apart they have grown and how difficult it is to put a marriage back together once it drifts apart.
Livesey is an accomplished novelist, with books such as The House On Fortune Street, Eva Moves The Furniture and The Flight Of Gemma Hardy. Her work has appeared widely in publications such as The New Yorker, Vogue and The Atlantic and she has won several writing grants and awards. In this novel, she explores the difficulty of staying connected to another person and how easily love can become a convenience rather than a necessity. She explores how we really never know another person and the impossibility of getting into someone else's mind and knowing what they will do from one minute to the next. We even fool ourselves about our own proclivities and how we fall short from the idealized version of ourselves we carry. This book is recommended for literary fiction readers and those interested in family relationships.