Smith dishes up a story about midlife crises that’s going to elicit both chuckles and tears as readers follow poor Elizabeth Mooney’s attempts to deal with the dramatic transformation a stroke causes in her cruel and distant husband. The real question for Elizabeth is going to be whether this change can cancel out the past 30 years.

When Elizabeth Mooney married Howell Whittington, the reigning prince of their small Georgia town, she never thought she’d spend the next 30 years in a disastrous marriage to a man whose affairs have hurt her and business practices have appalled her. Then Howe has a stroke. When he wakes up, he’s at the mercy of all his emotions and sets out to right all his past wrongs, starting with Elizabeth. Terrified of this sudden change in her staid husband, Elizabeth can only deal with the fallout as Howe blackmails the town’s bad guys into doing the right thing and stands up to his domineering mother and spoiled daughter. More than that, though, is his intense desire for his “Lizzie,” as he attempts to erase the last 30 years and seduce his unsuspecting wife into loving him again. (ST. MARTIN’S, Sep., 384 pp., $24.99)
Reviewed by: 
Pat Cooper