The title State of the Union is a truly apt title for Douglas Kennedy’s latest suspense drama. In one way, it applies to a troubled marital union between Hannah and Dan Lathan; more deeply, it applies to the state of the Union of our entire country.
Hannah marries Dan who wants nothing more than to become a small town practicing physician. Like him, Hannah wants to be a successful wife and mother in relative anonymity. She seems to have few ambitions like either of her parents-a mother who is a brilliant painter, and a father who is famous for his radical political views.
Hannah’s father has repeated been seen in the news backing any and, maybe even more truthful, all types of political positions dealing with anti-government sentiment. He is a college professor and his student followers are legion.
Hannah and Dan move to a small town in Maine where both are forced to live in a small apartment while their own apartment is repaired and remodeled. While Dan is away tending to his patients, Hannah quickly becomes bored. After her first child is born, the constant initial care of the newborn overwhelms her. She gets some support from her husband allowing her much needed sleep but not a lot.
One of the problems I had with State of the Union was the negative dialogue which always seemed present. From the beginning, Hannah and Dan’s haranguing of one another really bothered me. It seemed almost inevitable that sooner or later, some kind of split would occur. Early in the book, it becomes clear that Hannah is sexually dissatisfied, more psychologically than physically, by the way these two spouses hurtfully argue.
While husband Dan is away for several days tending to his dying father, Hannah’s popular activist father sends one of his FBI-wanted students to Hannah’s so he can sneak across the border from Maine into Canada . By now, Hannah is quite lonely and fed up with her humdrum life in a small public library. This attractive young activist hunk lures her to bed down with him. Against her conscience, the two share an orgasmic night together in the same small room where Anna’s tiny son lies sleeping.
She is aghast the next day when forced to give into demands by her suave lover that she must drive him across the border into Canada . Once again, this involves a lot of abusive talk. If she refuses, he threatens to expose their sexual indulgence-an act that could devastate her life in this small town. Hannah obliges just in time to return home and then to drive to the airport for her incoming husband.
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Over thirty years pass. Hannah is a high school teacher in New England-her husband is a famous orthopedic surgeon. Her troubled daughter disappears after a short-lived romance with a doctor. Her former activist lover of thirty years ago has settled down. He writes a blockbuster book that tells how he escaped from authorities.
Hannah’s life explodes around her. Her daughter is feared dead, she loses her teaching position. Her friends dessert. The media is having a field day pulling out as much dirt as possible about Hannah and her family, and of course her father and husband. The State of the Union between Hannah and her husband dissolves. He leaves her as well. The media is concerned about Hannah’s “trangressions” against The State of the Union as well. She has taken part in a Federal crime.
How can one human being survive such a sordid blast on their psyche? This is the well thought out tale: State of the Union . The story is very clever, it definitely provides enough odd twists and turns to keep a reader excited, and it is filled with quick paced dialog that quickly moves the story along.
My only disappointment with the book came from the negativity of the dialogue. Hannah’s talks with her mother, her father, her husband, her daughter, and those around her seem to ultimately lead to some kind of disagreement-crude, cutting words that this naive reviewer is not used to. Although I enjoyed the clever ending immensely, because of the unpleasant dialog in the story, I was glad this tale was over.
If you are looking for a clever, well-told story, The State of the Union could be the story for you, male or female, but it is not a happy, uplifting book like the cover would suggest.