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Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand

I actually read this book near the end of January, but I didn't get around to posting the review until now.  So technically this should be back dated to January, but blogger won't let me do that (at least I don't think it will).  I've previously read and reviewed three other Elin Hilderbrand novels: Beautiful Day, The Island, and The Castaways.  Click the titles to go to those reviews.  I also read Hilderbrand's Summerland--it was okay; I skipped a small chunk in the middle though.

Silver Girl, written in the wake of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme scandal (and probably inspired in part by the scandal), has a ripped from the headlines quality.  Rather than focusing on the perpetrator of the massive fraud--in this case it was a $50 billion scheme--or those who lost their life savings, it focuses on the wife of the man who bilked thousands of people out of billions of dollars.  This is the story of the aftermath of devastation wrought on the wife's life by her husband's indictment and subsequent conviction.

After Meredith's husband, Fred, is arrested, indicted and convicted of fraud on an epic and historic scale, she becomes a social pariah to whom the public assigns guilt by association.  The public is out for blood, and they won't settle for just her husband's incarceration.  How could Fred administer a massive Ponzi scheme that Meredith knew nothing about?  This is a question many ask of Meredith, including federal agents, the victims, the public, her sons, her attorneys, and even herself, and it is an underlying theme throughout the book.  Even her eldest son, Leo, who worked for the legitimate side of her husband's hedge fund, is caught in the cross-hairs of the ensuing federal investigation. While both Meredith and Leo are each separately under investigation, she's forbidden from any contact or communication with her sons. Meanwhile, Meredith's husband has gone mute in prison and refuses to speak to anyone--not his attorney, his wife or his sons--and thus, he won't cooperate with the ongoing investigations into Meredith's and Leo's involvement in his crimes.  In other words, Fred's essentially abandoning his family to their fates wrought, either rightly or wrongly, by his own crimes.

Meredith's friend, Connie, is still grieving the death of her husband two and a half years earlier as well as the resulting estrangement from her daughter to whom she hasn't spoken since the funeral.  Meredith, betrayed, broke, ostracized, isolated, homeless and essentially friendless, calls upon her oldest friend, Connie.  The women grew up together, went to school together and regarded each other as sisters, but they haven't spoken for three years following a falling out that stemmed from Fred's schemes.  Despite the estrangement, the women are drawn to each other at a time when each of them is desperately in need of a friend.  So Connie agrees to pick up Meredith and bring her along to her house on Nantucket Island for the summer where both women can spend some time healing their respective hurts and rebuilding their neglected friendship.

Several weeks into the summer the peaceful idyll is shattered when a mysterious photo of Meredith turns up on the front porch and the house and Connie's car incur vandalism directed at Meredith.  Then someone who lost millions in Fred's scheme recognizes Meredith and delivers a brutal verbal, personal attack that devastates Meredith and drives her to retreat indoors.  Who vandalized Connie's property, and why did the vandalism abruptly stop?  Meanwhile, Connie connects with a widower on the island and hesitantly begins a tentative romance that she nearly torpedoes by becoming fall down drunk during her second date.

This is an engrossing book, and it reads quickly, but there is a lot going on, and one or two too many sub-plots shoehorned in there.  There's the federal investigation for which Meredith is wracking her brain for clues as to where Fred might have hidden the billions, there are the flashbacks as each woman recalls the formative years of their friendship and their marriages, and there's Connie's pain over the estrangement of her daughter as well as her fledgling romance.  And also the vandalism.  And the appearance of an old flame from Meredith's past.  The resolutions to the vandalism and the estrangement between mother and daughter both seem slightly rushed.  For one, the vandalism appears and then disappears again for most of the book until it escalates into violence followed by a random resolution that seems to come out of left field.  Then Connie's daughter abruptly shows up near the end of the book after being absent except in her mother's flashbacks.  The daughter seems like a piece of work, both for shutting out her mother for as long as she did for the reasons that she did, and also for the reason, solely brought upon herself, that her romance implodes (which is what brings her back to Connie).

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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