Sunday, October 27, 2013
Possessions is my favorite Judith Michael novel. Maybe even my favorite when it comes to women’s fiction, period.
It’s a little dated. The book was published in 1984 and that shows, especially with the references to “Eskimos” and the mention of a computer with disc drives that everyone oohs and aahs over. But although the heroine becomes as beautiful, beloved, accomplished, etc. as any other Judith Michael female protagonist, she starts out on the opposite end of that scale. Which was what hooked me on the novel.
The story begins when Katherine Fraser, an ordinary housewife in Vancouver, discovers her husband is missing. Craig Fraser left on a business trip but never reached his destination, and everything goes downhill from there. His business partner tells Katherine that Craig was embezzling from the company, and soon the police are involved.
But the publicity has an unexpected side-effect. Katherine believed her husband was an orphan, but a wealthy family in San Francisco reads about him in the papers and contacts her. They once had a son called Craig who disappeared after an accident, and it soon becomes evident this is no coincidence.
Rather than being any help, though, Craig’s long-lost family leaves Katherine feelimg even more alone—not to mention poor. Her attempts to get a job only underline the fact that she hasn’t worked during the ten years of her marriage, and even though she loves designing jewelry, her samples are turned down by buyers who point out that she’s an amateur with amateur techniques.
Finally she sells their house at a loss and moves to a tiny apartment in San Francisco because her best friend lives in the city. Slowly, she starts enjoying her independence. She takes classes in jewelry design, buys different clothes (albeit secondhand ones) and mends bridges with Craig’s family. Though this has an unexpected side-effect too. His cousins Derek and Ross are both intrigued by her—in different ways—but Craig’s presence casts a shadow over her. Especially when he sends money from Canada, without ever divulging his location, writing to her or telling her the truth.
The story isn’t flawless. I didn’t buy that any jewelry designer could get so good so fast, and—except for Craig—things are perfect for Katherine towards the end. Those who treat her well are good people who are rewarded, while those who do not are bad people who get their comeuppance. But the descriptions of settings—San Francisco, Paris, the Cote d’Azur—are wonderfully written. I always lose myself in those, and yet, because Katherine starts out in such low water, it doesn’t come across as Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous either. Not a bad beach read at all.