★★★★★ Thursday’s Child by Beth Macmillan follows an aging mother named Della Doolittle and her two adult daughters, Tess and Sylvie, as they navigate failed marriages, lapses in fidelity, loony family members, and existential crises. Originally from the South, Della realized at a young age that she didn’t share much in common with her conservative parents and siblings. She raised her daughters to be more open-minded than her own upbringing had encouraged, which eventually drives an even deeper wedge between Della, her siblings, and her grandchildren. After learning her husband cheated on her at an office party, Tess—who’d been living in Copenhagen—moves back home and helps her mother take care of her Aunt Marie, now ailing from a rare form of dementia. While she’s home, Tess reconnects with her father, her younger sister, and the other odd ducks in her extended family, discovering more about her true desires in life—and about some dark moments in her own family’s past.
Insightful and biting, Macmillan’s writing displays an ease of authorial diplomacy in working to illuminate the fallacies in both liberal and conservative logic. Too often, it’s clear which side of the political spectrum an author calls home, which has the unfortunate effect of reducing their works of fiction to simple mouthpieces for their own agendas—regardless of the quality of their writing. But Macmillan has a careful way of balancing the bad to be found on both sides of the aisle, showing how family can find middle ground in the most unlikely of circumstances. Thursday’s Child is a bright, thought-provoking novel that particularly wins in its ability to pick apart the female psyche, á la Meg Wolitzer, and shows, paradoxically, how we’re often much stronger than we think we are—and much more susceptible to moral failures in places of our souls we hadn’t thought to look.