Hard choices at midlife

The cover of the book

The novel Hedge (Zibby Books, 2023) by Jane Delury, A&S '00 (MA), starts with the makings of a riveting romance: A middle-aged woman in a passionless marriage with a philandering spouse meets an Adonis on a work trip far from home. But not all is as it appears.

Between the lines of the budding love story—the stolen glances at work, the wine sipped under moonlight— real life seeps in and forces the main character, Maud Bentley, to make hard choices. At the center of the push and pull are Bentley's two daughters: one a brooding teenager, Ella, and the other a fun-loving adolescent, Louise. Tugging at Bentley's devotion to motherhood is her desire to do more with her career as a garden historian, which had been hemmed in by sacrifices made for her husband, Peter, and his path as an investment banker.

Bentley's aspirations lure her from her home in California to the verdant Hudson River Valley. There, she embarks on a summer project restoring the gardens of Montgomery Place, a 19th-century estate situated against the backdrop of the Catskill Mountains. Here, she meets Gabriel Crew, an archaeologist involved in the restoration.

What unravels is a series of happenings and events—some routine, others monumental and life-changing—to which millions of women will relate, as Bentley attempts to reconcile what she wants for herself versus her family's needs. "You're madly in love with your children," a friend observes about Bentley in the story. "Yes," Bentley thinks to herself. "But why can't I have more than one mad love?"

Delury's award-winning first novel, The Balcony, explores the anxiety that can fester between one's preconceived life plans and their reality; Hedge mines that space even deeper.

Letting go of expectations isn't easy but can lead to a richer life than we ever imagined.

Posted in Voices+Opinion

Tagged book reviews