My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads: An astonlshing novel from the acclaimed author of Keepsake that pushes the boundaries of storytelling. At turns shocking, provocative, and heart-wrenching, and inspired by a true story The Whole Golden World forces us to ask the question "How well do we really know our children?"
To the outside Diana and Joe have a perfect family-three lovely children, a beautiful home, and a café that's finally taking off. But their world is rocked when it's discovered that their oldest daughter, 17-year-old Morgan is having an affair with her married teacher, TJ Hill.
Their town rocks with the scandal. When the case goes to trial, the family is torn further apart when Morgan sides not with her parents-as a manipulated teenage girl; but with TJ himself-as a woman who loves a 30-year-old man.
Told from the perspectives of Morgan, Diana, and TJ's wife, Rain, this is an unforgettable story that fully explores the surprising, even shocking, events that change the lives of two families.
My thoughts: This is not a comfortable book to read but I found it relevant and intriguing. The story centers around Morgan, an honor student who feels stifled by the responsibilities of being a back-up mother to her 14 year old brothers who were born premature and fraternal twins. Morgan's mother has never recovered from the scare of almost losing them and may be a little on the hovering side. She expects Morgan to do the same when she (Dinah) can not be around at school.
Meanwhile, Dinah's husband, Joe, is an assistant principal at the high school. He is the eyes and ears at the school. Imagine his chagrin when his children get in trouble. But not Morgan. She's the one people forget about because she has so much good sense. She is wise beyond her years.
You can see where this is going, can't you?
TJ is a young teacher carrying his own baggage. He lives in the shadow of his successful brother who married a beautiful Italian woman, went to medical school, became a doctor, and lives in a beautiful house. He's bitter and obsessed with his lack. TJ is married to Rain, a woman who is his educational and intellectual inferior. She came from a trashy home but she was loved. She feels lucky to have TJ. TJ feels lucky to have her. But Rain wants a baby. It eats away at their relationship.
Morgan and TJ become friends at school. And then more. The opening scene is a court room. TJ has allegedly had a sexual relationship with a student, Morgan. Morgan's parents support the prosecution. Morgan is on the side of the defendant. She is livid at her parents. The story then flashes back to the beginning of the school year and how the situation evolved.
The author does an extraordinary job developing the relationships between the characters. The reader is not force fed the dynamics but left with enough detail to understand how each character might have the interpretations he or she has. It also underlines the culpability of all of the players in the story with the bolded context that the age difference is not as much the issue as the covert exploitation of power. Make no mistake that you will feel empathy for TJ. He feels greatly victimized and in some ways he is. But the bottom line is that he is held to a higher standard because of his position as a teacher and Morgan as a student.
The author explores all of the feelings of the characters as they are conflicting and understandable. It is a well written book with an ending that is natural yet somewhat heartbreaking. I liked the ending, just to clarify. It's a good book. Just not comfortable to consider.