Reviewed by Ellen Stokes-Thomas
"The more people I meet, the more I like my dog..."
What does life look like when the facade of propriety is wrenched away? What happens when one's skeletons and secret desires are exposed by the people you most entrust? Stephanie Abrams' Rumors addresses how malicious, and often unfounded, gossip can tear apart even the most stable of relationships and communities. And it always begins with self-interest.
Allison, mother of three and married to Dave, has fallen in love with David. After much internal anguish, she agrees to meet David at a New York City hotel to tell him that she cannot...will not...leave her family. Unbeknownst to Allison, she is spotted by a community member who begins rumors of a tryst between the star-crossed pair. Allison's life, the stability of her marriage, and her standing within her community begin their downward spiral. And there are many other lives impacted by rumors in Abrams' moral page turner and the many are, at times, challenging to keep in order. Smartly, the author 'closes' and recaps each individual or couples' misadventure in her final pages.
The writing is smart, humorous and at times witty. The author does especially well in moving the story forward through dialogue between her thoroughly-shaped characters. Even when not in conflict, tension is palpable:
"What do you do when you're not on your flower crusade, Melanie?"
"What do you mean?" Melanie asked, affronted by David's lack of focus on the subject at hand.
"Well, you've just made a very persuasive argument and an enthusiastic presentation about something completely inconsequential in the scheme of things. Nonetheless, you motivated me and, apparently, the rabbi, or you wouldn't be here now... So my question is, what do you do with all of those skills when you're not worrying about flowers?"
"I'm not sure whether to be flattered by your interest or insulted by your ignoring why I came here to see you," Melanie shot back.
Closer to home, an African American family is about to integrate the neighborhood and stereotypical fears are roused in an attempt to muster community resistance. In attempting to portray the “greater good”, the author chooses one family archetype over another while allowing the ‘haters’ to remain all too human. With the exception of one, the burden again weighs on black shoulders to disprove the naysayers. This community lives in harsh judgment of itself and others.
Certainly an entertaining read offering an insider's view of 'community' Rumors reaches beyond the surface of closely guarded fears, exploring that peculiar human condition that has ones' neighbors publically grieve the misfortune they, themselves, bring.
Ellen Stokes-Thomas is a freelance writer who works so that she may write. She lives with her husband and two sons in the Cincinnati area.