“There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.” — Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Three years ago, Hanna Schutt and her husband were bludgeoned in their bed with a crochet mallet. As a result her husband perished, she has a disfigured face, and she suffers from traumatic brain injury. Her youngest daughter’s boyfriend is in prison for the crime, but there has always been uncertainty in Hanna’s mind as to his guilt. Now, his case has come up for review and the lawyers want Hanna to testify. The press have renewed interest in the case, and Hanna finds herself at a crossroads…
Before the vicious attack that disseminated Hanna’s family, they were an average American family living in Upstate New York. Her husband was an accountant, she loved her work as a nurse and she loved to garden. Iris, their eldest daughter was engaged to be married. It was only their youngest daughter, Dawn, that marred the image of the perfect family. Dawn was always a little bit ‘different’. It wasn’t just the fact that she had a ‘lazy eye’, it was that she was an awkward child who seemed vacant sometimes. Her cruel schoolmates (and her sister) often called her ‘Ding Dong Dawn’. Ostracized by her peers, she was a solitary girl who seemed immature for her age.
Hanna always felt close to Dawn. They spent a lot of time together due to Dawn’s lack of friends. Dawn brought out Hanna’s protective instincts. Hanna felt needed. Her eldest daughter, beautiful, popular, and her father’s favorite, didn’t need her in the same way.
Before the attack Hanna had a best friend, Claire, with whom she could share her feelings. This was quite unusual in Hanna’s case. She usually held her feelings back from others. She blamed it on her upbringing, the Swedish reticence. That friendship ended after the attack due to what Claire considered Hanna’s willful blindness. Claire just couldn’t condone or understand how Hanna wanted to believe something opposite to what is true because the truth was just too painful to accept or contemplate. Nor could Claire understand why Hanna is still living in the house where the attack took place.
When the lawyer pressures Hanna into testifying at the new trial, Hanna claims that she cannot remember anything from that horrible night, but she maintains that her daughter Dawn had nothing to do with the crime despite evidence to the contrary. When Dawn hears of the new trial she moves from her home in New Mexico to live once again with Hanna. Iris, who has always suspected Dawn had a role in the vicious attack is appalled by her mother’s decision to welcome Dawn back into her life.
It is hard for me to believe that Jessica Treadway is not a parent herself because she has such a firm grasp of the unconditional love and the inherent guilt that accompanies parenthood. They say that a mother can only be as happy as her unhappiest child…
The title came about as a result of the author making a typo. She meant to type ‘lazy eye’ but typed ‘lacy eye’ instead. It was a happy accident that brought about the perfect title for this novel! I loved how the term lacy eye was incorporated into the novel. The family used the phrase ‘lacy eye’ to describe trying to make something more positive than it actually was – another way of saying looking through rose colored glasses.
I would recommend reading this book with the obvious proviso that the subject matter is difficult to say the least. The novel was equal parts engrossing and disturbing.
Jessica Treadway‘s story collection Please Come Back to Me received the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. She is also the author of And Give You Peace, which was named as one of Booklist ‘s Top 10 Debut Novels of the Year, and the collection Absent Without Leave and Other Stories. Her stories have appeared in the Atlantic, Hudson Review, Ploughshares, and Five Points, among other literary journals. A professor at Emerson College in Boston, she lives with her husband in Lexington, Massachusetts.