Anna is a divorced mother of an 8-year-old girl who had fled her ex-husband for the desert of New Mexico. She doesn’t seem to work, really, although at one time, her narrative hints, she was an international journalist. Something happened between her and the ex that looms overhead, dark and threatening to rain.
Meanwhile, she parents, with the help of Esperanza, the housekeeper/compulsive gambler. She broods and mopes around her town, until one night she sees her neighbor’s son in a whole new light.
What follows is Anna’s steep descent into obsession – a sexual affair with a young man 20 years her junior, and an account of her appreciation for his youth, his beauty, and his creamy skin. As a novel, it’s compelling. I’m a woman. I get it. I enjoyed living vicariously through this imaginary mother, her indulgence, her petulant rationalization in her mind, to her daughter: “I’ve given you everything.”
But what the story doesn’t let the reader in on soon enough, in my opinion, is Anna’s alcoholism. Sure, she’s a drinker. Sure, she self medicates. But when the chips are down, Anna’s inability to cope ultimately causes a major disaster. And then the book is over.
I found myself wanting more. More love affair – the boy is interesting at first and you can see why Anna is drawn to him. But he ceases to be interesting after a short while. He becomes just another deadbeat kid with no direction and no kitchen skills. Why Anna continues to want him is a mystery.
I wanted more of Anna’s self-destruction, too. The story is well told, the writing is lyrical and compelling. It shows how even the most loving mother can be so distracted by lust that only the worst possible scenario can shake her out of it. But “The Boy” is too much like life – people making bad decisions, events not making sense. I read novels to escape life, and this one was just as frustrating as the real thing.