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Mending Fences


Mending Fences

Few people would have pegged Evan Carter, a freshman football star at the University of Miami, as a rapist. After all, he’s the quintessential golden boy, a smart, popular kid who impressed his high school teachers and “never gave anyone a lick of trouble.” So when a fellow student accuses the would-be NFL star of sexual assault, no one is more stunned than his mother, Marcie, and her best friend and neighbor, Emily Dobbs. “Evan simply couldn’t do such a thing,” his mother tells herself shortly after her oldest child’s arrest, even as his cocky, indifferent behavior suggests he may not be the perfect gentleman she thinks he is. “I know when a woman wants to sleep with me,” he declares, shortly after referring to Lauren, his accuser, as a “lying little slut.”

Evan’s biggest defender is his father, Ken, who doesn't hesitate to dismiss Lauren’s accusations as a “pack of lies.” But others aren’t so sure about his innocence. Emily’s son, Josh, who was once Evan’s close friend, “saw this coming a long time ago.” Her ex-husband, Derek, has also noticed a shift in Evan’s behavior. Even more alarming, Emily's teenage daughter, Dani, is acting strangely, and the handsome detective on the case is asking some very pointed questions about what Evan is really like. Is it possible, Emily begins to wonder, that Evan really is a rapist? Worse, could it be that his latest victim wasn’t his first?

"Woods' novel, first published in 2007 and reprinted now by Mira, hits at an opportune time. The epidemic of sexual assault on campus is in the media spotlight, and MENDING FENCES tackles the difficult subject with grace and sensitivity..."

Woods' novel, first published in 2007 and reprinted now by Mira, hits at an opportune time. The epidemic of sexual assault on campus is in the media spotlight, and MENDING FENCES tackles the difficult subject with grace and sensitivity, though in a somewhat roundabout way. Rather than focusing on Lauren, Evan’s victim, or Evan himself, Woods explores the ripple effects of that initial accusation and the way it upends the lives of Evan’s family and friends.

Marcie is confronted with a mother's worst nightmare --- the possibility that her beloved son has done something unforgivable. For a woman who has dedicated herself to building a picture-perfect life for her family, the charges against Evan are particularly hard to swallow. Yet the firestorm his crime ignites forces her to take a closer look at her own life choices, particularly her relationship with her bullying, controlling husband and the example it set for her son.

Meanwhile, Emily is dealing with her own crisis. Initially, her loyalty to her close friend makes it difficult for her to consider the possibility that Evan is a predator. But as Detective Grady Rodriguez digs deeper into the case, Marcie has to question her assumptions about Evan, as well as what she knows about her own daughter. At the same time, sparks fly between her and Grady, and for the first time in years, Emily finds herself hiding something from her closest friend.

Woods is adept at depicting the complicated relationship mothers have with their children and the way those relationships can change as they grow up. Emily’s budding romance with Grady is sweetly rendered but doesn't overshadow the novel's more serious themes. Somewhat less plausible is the swift reporting of Lauren's rape and the equally prompt arrest of the perpetrator. To their credit, the cops in MENDING FENCES are good guys who never doubt the victim’s story. In reality, that’s an all-too-uncommon response to a serious crime, especially when a star athlete is involved. More depressingly realistic is Ken’s knee-jerk defense of his son and his attempt to tarnish Lauren’s reputation in the media, branding her a liar and a slut. Ken’s actions are hardly a stretch, considering the way he belittles and mocks his wife. Yet he never seems to be more than a cardboard cutout of a loutish, insensitive husband. More development of this character and his relationship with his son might have helped to explain why Evan turned out the way he did.

The deep and loving friendship between Marcie and Emily (as well as that of their daughters) is at the heart of Woods’ novel. In MENDING FENCES, husbands are often unreliable and sons can turn out to be criminals, but friends will be there for you through thick and thin. Emily may lock lips with Detective Rodriguez, but the real relationship here is the one between two friends who can still see a way to make “fresh memories together,” even after all they’ve been through.

Reviewed by Megan Elliott on September 30, 2016

Mending Fences
by Sherryl Woods

  • Publication Date: September 27, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Mira
  • ISBN-10: 0778319776
  • ISBN-13: 9780778319771