In 1956, Edith Howland is about to move with husband Brett and little son Cliffie, to a new and bigger house in Pennsylvania. She wraps up her diary carefully - the repository of her hopes and dreams for the future, it plays a key part in this edgy, uncomfortable but strangely compelling novel.
Things don't go smoothly for Edith. Her son is lazy and resentful and Brett seems to give up on him. Brett's Uncle George, who has unspecified back trouble, foists himself upon them, and Edith ends up having to look after him. Then Brett meets Carol, a new young journalist at the paper he works for.
When exactly does Edith's diary begin to stand in for the real life that is so unsatisfactory? It's hard to answer that, so gradually and reasonably does the subterfuge Edith creates in her own head begin to work. In the diary, for instance, Cliffie goes to college and gets a good job, marries his ideal woman and ends up with children. In reality, Cliffie is a fat, work-shy, drunk - and it's almost certainly his fault that Uncle George ends up dead of a medication overdose.
The ending is chilling as Edith finds it increasingly difficult to recognise the truth, much preferring her fantasies. This is an unsettling but fascinating read.