The Sparkle and its Tarnish
A review of the novel The Objects of Her Affection by Sonya Cobb
The Story: if it hadn’t been for that mortgage scam, Sophie’s life for her husband and two kids would have been everything she had always missed as a child – anchored and safe in a real home she has lovingly renovated. But with her freelance web design work all but dried up and Brian’s preoccupation with trying to procure a rare candlestick for the museum she’s going to have to find a way to fix it, as usual, on her own. When she almost accidentally takes a valuable mirror from the museum, she starts on a spiral that could cost her everything she has, and more.
Not everyone who turns to a life of crime does so because of greed or evil intentions. Sometimes that’s the only way to get by. Mind you, when Sophie did it, she wasn’t homeless or starving (or both), but that was precisely what she was trying to avoid happening. This is how she convinced herself she wasn’t a criminal; no one would miss the things she had taken – she had no choice, and she was a victim first.
As a generally honest person, when I read about stealing and cheating, I immediately sympathize with the victims, which I’m sure most of us tend to do. Making Sophie into a victim who perpetrates a crime to try to get out of her predicament makes her somewhat of an enigma. On the one hand, we hope she’ll succeed in pulling herself out of the financial hole of her explosively expensive mortgage put her in. On the other hand, we can’t help but cringe when she steals those beautiful objects from her husband’s museum, and puts him in jeopardy by doing so. We like Sophie, but we aren’t happy with her; we sympathize with her predicament, but we condemn her methods of escape. To tell the truth, I was so torn with my feelings here that I found myself shouting “no, please don’t do it” several times while reading. The point is, we become emotionally involved very quickly in this book, which shows that Cobb has succeeded in writing a story that gets right under our skins, and that’s no small feat.
I also liked how Cobb set this story back just the right number of years so that she could put Sophie into one of those bad mortgage loans that were so popular during the 00s. This coincided perfectly with the rapid changes in the Internet and computing, so Sophie’s losing touch with those advances while taking care of her babies, worked perfectly with her losing clients and getting more financially in trouble. The real zingers that Cobb put in here were how she laid out possible honest avenues for Sophie’s rescue, and then let Sophie be blind to them and continue down the dishonest route.
Cobb also succeeds in pulling us in with a very quickly flowing prose that has just the right amount of anxiety worked into text, laced with level amounts of regret and excitement for everything Sophie knows she’s doing, both right and wrong. She also adds a smattering of nostalgia for the better times, and enough well-placed and unobtrusive sections of back-story to help us better understand Sophie’s motives and personality. In short, this is Sophie’s story from beginning to end.
I do have to say that I wasn’t completely enamored with how Cobb ended this book. Cobb finishes with an abruptness that didn’t feel as smooth as the rest of the book, and felt a touch incongruent. Not having everything tied up perfectly doesn’t bother me, but as I turned to the last chapter, it felt I was missing something because of a time gap that took a while to figure out. However, this was the only drawback I found in this story.
For all of this, I’m certainly going to recommend this book. It is truly a fun escapist romp, even if you feel a bit anxious at times while you’re reading it. You’ll quickly grow to love Sophie even when you hate some of the things she does. That makes her real and human, and that’s exactly what a good protagonist is supposed to be like. If the ending had been just a bit different, this would have gotten full marks. As it is, I think this deserves four and a half out of five stars.
“Objects of Her Affection” by Sonya Cobb is a Sourcebooks Landmark publication, released August 12, 2014. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an advance reader’s copy of this book for review via NetGalley.
You can buy this book in paperback from the Book Depository or from Barnes & Noble or from Amazon where it is also available on Kindle.