There was no way for her to voice an opinion without being accused of anger. Everywhere she turned in her own home, there was a new insult. She would wake up in the morning and walk out the door with Toby and the kids and before she headed in the direction away from the school, she would hear the doorman talk about what a hero Toby was for taking his own children to school.
Rachel is a wildly successful agent. Toby is a respected doctor. They are getting a divorce and one morning Rachel drops their kids, Solly (9) and Hannah (11), off at Toby’s apartment at 4 am.
Then Rachel disappears from their lives and her voice from the book.
Toby is a good dad, there’s no doubt about that. But how good of a parent are you when you hold open contempt for the other parent and question their love for their children?
Toby scrambles for childcare and is met with sympathy and accommodating help. And against the backdrop of Rachel’s disappearance, she is left without perspective during the pages upon pages airing Toby’s grievances against her, far beyond her disappearance.
The entire story is told through the eyes of Libby, a longtime friend with struggles and frustrations of her own. From a literary standpoint, the use of her as a narrator was both fascinating and creative.
And it drove a subtle point home as she is also largely quiet for long portions of the book. The women in Toby’s life don’t have the opportunity to say much.
Fleishman Is In Trouble… but which Fleishman?
Toby does his own investigative work and determines that Rachel is having an affair on top of abandoning their children. Double standard: they are technically still married but his extensive use of dating apps and hook-ups are treated as nothing short of normal.
It was so interesting to me the amount of sympathy, help, support, and passes that Toby received while his wife was torn apart for her career, her drive, and the role reversal within the marriage – that he benefitted from, all while complaining about it at the same time.
We don’t hear from Rachel until the latter part of the book and while some suspicions were confirmed, what we really found was a woman broken by the belief that women can have it all.
The writing, the narrator, the stories told within the story, and the subtle way that the author created appeal to almost any adult reader made this a five star book for me.
There were parts of this book that struck incredibly loud chords with me. Yes, this book may appear to be about divorce – but only on the surface. Sex is a prevailing storyline so no, this book is not for everyone. But if you were taught the lie that a woman or a man could “have it all”, this book is well worth a read.
Much like Rachel, I spent 20 years in a male dominated industry. Locker room talk, harassment, and all the other fun things that come with the territory were the norm. I believed that I could have it all but it never happened – something always had to give.
That something was everything from respect from colleagues to the death of a certification I wanted and studied out my guts for.
That’s where this book really began to resonate with me. I’ve been there and have fought the stress and untimely pause or death of a dream. Sure, I could have gone in the direction of Rachel but we would have ended in the same place.
Angry and insulted no matter our achievements.
Women are tired. Men are frustrated. The lies are everywhere. In the book, Toby was free to exhibit little drive by keeping the same job, even when given opportunities for advancement, while he watched Rachel climb the endless corporate ladder which benefited the entire family.
A fancy apartment in the city, a house in the Hamptons, the best schools – all things Toby begrudged while blaming Rachel for everything. Decisions made jointly were suddenly Rachel’s ideas and Rachel’s career help Toby’s back, and of course the kids, they preferred Toby over their mother.
Rachel couldn’t have it all. But neither could Toby. And it broke them.
Because Fleishman was in trouble.