Whereas many works of women's fiction center around main characters in their twenties or thirties, Releasing Gillian's Wolves focuses on a quinquagenarian with a green thumb, artistic talent, and closet full of "Congressman's Wife" clothing. For decades, she's dealt with her philandering husband's bad behavior by painting in her studio, working in her garden, and taking care of friends and family, including the mother-in-law whom her husband routinely neglects. Jack's newest paramour, a twenty-something intern, proves to be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back. After thirty years of marriage, she finally makes a stand for herself.
Unlike many tales of adultery, this one involves little in the way of broken furniture and nasty shouting matches. Instead, Gillian calmly states her terms and walks away in an admirable show of strength. We follow her along her path to healing, an international journey that includes a healed rift with an estranged daughter and a holiday in the Netherlands that is saturated in art. Releasing Gillian's Wolves is not so much about intrigue as it is about life and second chances at creating a full one.
The storyline is, in a word, comfortable in terms of pacing and ambiance. The salacious events surrounding Jack are treated more as prop or catalysts than focal points, and while that approach suits a tale of personal growth and healing, I would have liked to have had a few more details. Even so, there is more than enough material to keep one entertained. Intimate descriptions of various food items whet the appetite, while refreshingly deep conversations stimulate the mind. Each section actually starts off with a recipe related to that part of the story, including a brownie recipe I am now eager to try.
Releasing Gillian's Wolves is a book I'd recommend to anyone who needs renewed faith towards the women's fiction genre. It isn't light and fluffy, nor is it petulant and melodramatic; it is thoughtful, accessible, and above all, real.
(Review copy provided by the author)