Nancy-Gay Rotstein's Shattering Glass (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 376 pages, $32 cloth) is a basically traditional treatment, both in style and content, of contemporary family life. The focus is on three women, each with her own problems, each confronting in her own way that age-old question, "What Price Independence?"
Judy and her son Shane struggle for financial survival after her husband divorces her. She eventually returns to law school and pursues the career she gave up when she got married.
Dede is the only child of wealthy Toronto parents, who suffocate her emotionally. They destroy her relationship with a man who genuinely loves her but embrace with open arms one who is interested only in her inheritance and social status.
The third heroine, Barbara, plays the role of dutiful corporate wife, helping her promotion-hungry lawyer husband fulfill his ambitions. When she begins to meet her own needs by doing what she loves to do-write novels-he becomes physically abusive.
The men do not fare well. They are all concerned with appearances, with power at the expense of their families. Even Judy's husband, seemingly a "nice guy", is deceitful and manipulative. Dede's husband spends far more time in Ottawa chasing his political dreams than he does at home. Barbara's husband sacrifices his own self-respect as he tries to claw his way up what turns out to be a cliff, not a ladder. Not one of them cares much about his children, and it is the women's struggles to be good mothers, to protect their kids, that are the most poignant aspect of the story.
Barbara sees herself as "part of the Undervalued Generation-those women born too late to be appreciated for child rearing and volunteer work and too early to reap the benefits of the women's liberation movement." The same could be said about the other two women as well.
Shattering Glass might at first glance be dismissed as another Danielle-Steel-style female melodrama, but Rotstein gives a better literary performance than that. Despite some of the stereotypical situations they find themselves in, Judy, Dede, and Barbara are credible fictional creations: "Ordinary people, who through their strength of character manage to accomplish the extraordinary."