Family Law

by Gin Philips
Viking, May 2021, $26

Lucia Gilbert is a happily married young lawyer with a burgeoning family law practice in Montgomery, Alabama. It’s 1979, a time when the law is often stacked against women in a place where male judges feel free to comment on Lucia’s “sweet ass” in court. Tough enough not to let such aggravations break her stride, she’s also fair-minded, sympathetic to her divorcing clients, and very good at her job.

When Lucia meets Rachel, the teenage daughter of an overprotective, fragile, single mother, an unlikely friendship forms. Rachel is naive but canny, eager to break free of her mother’s suffocating control and the social expectations that constrain young girls. The two share a quirky sense of humor and a streak of daring.

They become close, until the occasional threats Lucia receives from disgruntled exspouses escalate into violence, and she is torn between continuing to do the work she loves and believes is important and protecting herself, her family, and Rachel.

Lucia and Rachel are delightful, and the supporting characters—Lucia’s husband, parents, and clients, Rachel’s mother, and the man who lives next door—are believable and relatable. The interplay between them is amusingly real. The Southern setting feels familiar and nostalgic, grounded in authentic late-’70s-early-’80s detail.

Most of the action is internal, and the narrative doesn’t feel particularly fast-moving or suspenseful despite there being a violent stalker on the loose. Some of the plot threads could have been more tightly woven. This isn’t the book for readers looking for heartpounding suspense, but those seeking lighter fare will find a fun, enjoyable story featuring wonderful characters, setting, and humor.

Jean Gazis
Teri Duerr
May 2021