(If this sounds familiar, it’s because Susan Meissner asked the same question in White Picket Fences, which I reviewed last week. Just a coincidence, but interesting to see two very different novels with similar themes side-by-side…)
This question haunts the heroine of Elizabeth Letts’s 2006 novel, Family Planning, in which Charlotte Hopper, the nurse practitioner of a rural non-profit women’s health center, knows the importance of keeping secrets. Her clients, as well as her coworkers, depend on it. But when Charlotte’s charismatic college friend, moves in next door, she brings with her the whiff of an old secret so disturbing, Charlotte’s husband leaves rather than face it. On the heels of his abandonment, Charlotte makes a wrenching discovery at the health center, which not only puts her in the media spotlight, but brings her under suspicion of a terrible crime.
Family Planning was published by New American Library (NAL), a publishing house that emblazons a slogan across its covers: “Fiction for the way we live.” Appropriate. With stories geared for women, with plots and characters to engage the female imagination, NAL novels rarely fail to connect with my feminine soul. Many recent faves are, in fact, NAL books, including those by Karen White (Memory of Water), Lisa Wingate (A Month of Summer), Jessica Barksdale Inclan (One Small Thing). Marketed for mainstream audiences, not Christian ones, they often contain language I would not use, and characters with worldviews I do not embrace. Nonetheless, I savor the “realness” of these stories, which usually carry a concluding message of redemption and hope that I find myself pondering long after I finish the last page.
Such was certainly the case here. Letts proves herself a gifted storyteller – a worthy member of the NAL stable – with a knack for memorable characters and intriguing plot twists. I did stumble across a handful of odd typos and other inconsistencies that a proofing editor should have caught, but these were minor distractions. From the first gripping pages to the hope-filled conclusion, I was completely hooked.
I really, really liked this novel and look forward to more from Elizabeth Letts.