Nick Wakefield is a workaholic. His successful business leaves him little time to spend with his wife, Maya and their twins,Foster and Isla, and even when he does spend time with them he is filled with a sense of boredom and a feeling of not really belonging in their world. Maya is a good mother, but her intensity and yearning for fulfilled motherhood does not leave any space for her to be the wife Nick wants. When he approaches his lawyer friend, Gray,to make tentative inquiries about divorcing Maya, he is filled with dismay at the amount of money he will lose in a joint asset split divorce. Advised by Gray to become a better husband in order to minimise his losses in a future divorce settlement , Nick sets out to become a better husband and father. What then follows is a salutary warning of being careful of what you wish for, because as Nick changes, so does Maya, with disastrous consequences.
I really enjoyed this wry look at modern marriage and parental responsibilities and about what happens when the boundaries between the two start to blur. Initially, I really disliked Nick , he was selfish and arrogant and totally immersed in himself and what he wanted. But then, Maya too was also very selfish, possessively absorbed in her children and obsessed to the point of paranoia about her precious babies eating or doing the wrong things. The twins were adorable, frighteningly observant in the way only small children can be, and this observation by Foster sums up Nick entirely as "Even when daddy's home, it's like he's away "...out of the mouths of babes, springs to mind.
The writing in A Better Man is confident and skillful, and I am sure that the premise of the story will resonate throughout the affluent world, as it's about what happens when possessions, greed and apathy take priority over feelings. I really liked the way both sides of the stories emerged which allowed Maya and Nick to tell the story from their point of view. I'm not sure that I liked either of them any more by the end of the novel, but I thought that the interesting twist at the end concluded the story nicely.
Follow Leah on Twitter @leahmclaren
I read this book as part of the Curtis Brown Book Club
My thanks to Corvus and Curtis Brown for my copy of this book.