Monday, February 19, 2018
Books

Review: 'Tuesday Night Miracles' by Kris Radish focuses on five women with internal battles

Given what brings its main characters together, you might think Tuesday Night Miracles was grisly mystery fiction.

Jane, a formerly high-flying real estate agent struggling with the housing crash, beats her broker bloody with her stiletto-heeled shoe after a big sale falls through.

Kit, only daughter of a macho Italian-American family, gets in a drunken fight with one of her brothers after their mother's funeral and goes after him with a broken wine bottle.

Grace, a nurse and divorced mother of two, comes home after a stressful shift and finds the car of her teenage daughter's "boyfriend from hell" parked at her house and runs into it — three times.

And Leah, a longtime victim of domestic violence, finally explodes into violence herself.

But these crimes aren't mysteries — they're described in the book's first few pages. What Kris Radish is interested in exploring in Tuesday Night Miracles is what happens afterward.

Radish, a former journalist, lives in St. Petersburg and co-owns the Wine Madonna, a book-club-friendly wine bar downtown, with her partner, Madonna Metcalf. Tuesday Night Miracles is Radish's eighth novel and, like those before it, focuses on friendships and family relationships among women.

At the beginning of the book, Jane, Kit, Grace and Leah are neither family nor friends. All have committed assaults that could bring them stiff jail sentences, but, because they don't have prior criminal records, they have one chance to avoid prison: complete an anger-management course.

So they find themselves meeting in a grungy room in what looks like an abandoned building in a Chicago suburb, under the direction of the book's fifth main character, psychiatrist Olivia Bayer.

Olivia has been running therapy groups for decades, but this one daunts her — she fears these four women have serious rage issues that a couple of months of sessions might not even crack. So she gets permission to try "an outlandish way to counsel angry women," even though it puts her own career at risk.

Her four subjects are not a bit thrilled to be in the group to begin with, although they're willing to try it, given the alternative. They're really baffled when Olivia starts handing out her "assignments."

Some of their time is spent in traditional group discussion and individual journaling, but Olivia is more likely to send them out to hike in a park, visit a comedy club or get a mani-pedi, depending on what she thinks each woman needs. Sometimes they get a group assignment: Four women who have committed assault going to a gun range? What could go wrong?

Olivia's treatment plan has two goals: uncovering the reasons for each woman's violent anger and teaching them to move beyond it to a better life. The first part is a real battle; these are women with many secrets, and they won't give them up easily. And the second part can't begin without the first one.

Olivia has a few secrets of her own, some of which explain why the success of this particular group is so important to her.

Radish shifts the narrative point of view among all five characters, and occasionally we even hear from Phyllis, Olivia's doted-upon, elderly cocker spaniel. Some of these women are not easy to like, particularly the spectacularly snobby, insensitive Jane. But they're believable, as are the developing friendships among them. Spiked with a few surprises, Tuesday Night Miracles treats its characters with humor, compassion and insight.

Colette Bancroft can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8435.

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