Miscarrying Theodore on Leap Day devastated Mandelyn and Henry in ways that weren’t obvious at first. Suppressing his grief to protect his devastated wife, Henry fought for career success, even as the economy plummeted, in order to afford a move from the city to the comfort of Mandelyn’s hometown. Provincial Weston is a far cry from his turbulent childhood in south Milwaukee and their cosmopolitan life in Chicago, but Henry is used to living outside of the social mores.
For Mandelyn, surviving the loss and the postpartum depression that followed meant accepting Henry’s advice, tethering her rising star in the advertising world to go in-house at a suburban government-run laboratory. She ceded control too easily, though – she could see that now. Prescriptions and psychobabble addled her mind, making surrender to Henry’s increasing control over her life seem logical and safe.
Three years passed, the calendar graciously skipping the tragic anniversary. Mandelyn, uninspired by her rudderless career, is unable to connect with Henry, once her touchstone now little more than a distant caretaker. Regaining command of her life will take a lot more than time on a therapist’s couch. Colette, a wise and sassy friend, suggests she try virtual therapy. Journaling to an anonymous online persona, Mandelyn indulges her melancholic nostalgia as an escape from the present.
Whether it’s the sharp-witted but warm-hearted Joshua, the mercurial childhood friend Sam, or the fascinating and infuriating Dante, Mandelyn has no shortage of wistful memories to romanticize. Never mind that Joshua came out of the closet after years of chaste high school camaraderie, Sam toyed with her emotions and took her virginity, and Dante, after a steamy year and a college volunteer work trip to Jaipur, India, simply faded from her life without explanation.
As she starts to see her past for what it was instead of what she imagined it to be, Mandelyn is also organizing an event that finally stirs her professional fire. A high-profile facility grand opening, including a preeminent astrophysicist as a featured lecturer, will draw media coverage, not to mention the attention of politicians and scientists worldwide. An ill-timed encounter and a misguided, drunken attempt at closure just prior to the event, however, threatens to unravel what little progress she has made.
Horrified by her transgression, she resolves to confess to Henry, but she doesn’t have the chance. While she is away, Henry discovers her journal entries. Confirming the depth of Mandelyn’s ennui, he decides there is only one thing he can do:
I have to release you. Go. Find yourself. See if something or someone – in your past or in your future – holds the keys to your happiness. Maybe you’ll find what you need somewhere inside you. If you don’t live this life fully, Mandelyn, it won’t be on my account. I think you know I love you, but if the character of my love doesn’t fulfill you, I don’t have anything else I have to offer.
Pragmatic Mandelyn resists a downward spiral; her job’s hectic tasks occupy her attention until the night of the grand opening. What happens that night, however, brings both her challenges and the means for their resolution to stark relief. What follows is a veritable Odyssey through the chasms between science and religion, perception and reality, head and heart, and forgiveness and gratitude. Will any of this, however, be enough to reclaim her life and happiness?