Home » Book Review » Book review and contest: Infidelity, by Stacey May Fowles

Book review and contest: Infidelity, by Stacey May Fowles

Toronto-based writer Stacey May Fowles’ latest novel, Infidelity, tells the story of a married poet and a hairdresser tangled up in a passionate affair, and Bookclub-in-a-Box is excited to be giving away a copy of the book to one reader! To enter the contest, just email laura [at] bookclubinabox.com with your name and mailing address (GTA residents only) by Wednesday, Oct. 2. And don’t feel guilty if you want to read this book again and again—your other books will understand.

Want to meet Stacey May Fowles at the book’s official launch? Here are the event’s details:

Infidelity book launch
Thursday, September 26, 7–9 p.m.
No One Writes to the Colonel
460 College St., Toronto (near Bathurst St.)
FREE admission

Reviewed by Laura Godfrey

Many books have been written about the destructiveness of affairs, but Stacey May Fowles’ newest novel, Infidelity, does so with an intricacy and thoughtfulness that is rare, and often poetic. Set in Toronto, the story follows Ronnie, a hairdresser in her mid-thirties whose live-in boyfriend, Aaron, tries to convince her to settle down. One evening, while she is helping Aaron cater a party, Ronnie sees a stranger who piques her interest. Soon the two have struck up a flirtatious conversation, each initially concealing their own long-term relationship—it turns out Charlie, the stranger at the party, is a well-known poet with a wife and an autistic son.

Stacey May Fowles

For Ronnie and Charlie, things start out slowly: sharing secrets, light touches, spending time together in his university office where he is writer-in-residence. She considers whether emotional infidelity is really so wrong after all, whether the fantasizing and lying about their whereabouts count as cheating. For Ronnie, the expectation from Aaron and her own family to act as the stereotypical “good wife” is suffocating. For Charlie, it’s refreshing to meet someone whose interest in him isn’t tied to his literary success.

Of course, any musings about emotional infidelity soon become a moot point, as things between the two become physical, and their meetings migrate to anonymous hotel rooms to avoid suspicious eyes. Following Ronnie as she (poorly) manages her progressing relationship with Aaron, and Charlie as he becomes more and more distant from his trusting wife and son, the suspense is palpable, and the expectation that they’ll be caught lurks in every scene. Also notable is the character of Ronnie’s friend and colleague Lisa, who reacts in a non-judgmental, even supportive way when Ronnie confesses her problems to her.

Fowles’ use of metaphors throughout the book is skilful, and naturally embedded into the story’s narrative. For instance, the hairdressers’ scissors featured on the novel’s cover appear rusty and vaguely threatening, but Ronnie explains that she was drawn to the profession because of “her ability to make people feel good, happy, and attractive,” and because her clients “relied on her to symbolically overhaul their lives.” Later on, a description of the way Aaron cuts a mango beautifully illustrates why he, though a loving and responsible man, is mismatched with the reckless Ronnie: “It’s methodical, with no sensuality in an easily sensual act. No rebellious sticky sweetness dripping the length of his arm, no juice licked from fingertips. Just evenly carved segments lined up on a plate, his hands scrubbed antiseptically clean of any evidence of the endeavour.”

The novel’s affair is a straightforward (though heartbreaking) story at its core, but the details woven into it are what make it unique, and Fowles’ prose make individual scenes unforgettable. Infidelity is a book you’ll want to read aloud, debate with your friends, and return to more than once.

(ECW Press / 225 pgs. / September 2013 / CDN$18.95 in paperback)

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