Nancy and Chuck are struggling in their lives. They met in college and fell in love, got marred, had twin boys, did all the things they were supposed to. Now the boys are in high school, and Chuck's long hours at work turned into a brief affair. As a way to start over, they move to Hawaii. Once the boys are back in school and involved in sports, Nancy is left with a hole in her life. She no longer has all her friends, the other moms in her kids' classes and on their sports teams, and she finds herself wanting to find some meaning in her life.
One morning she decides to try a yoga class on the beach. There are only a few other people in the class, and as Nancy sits in her car deciding whether she wants to go through with it, a beautiful woman with a compelling confidence knocks on her car window and encourages her to stay. Nancy decides to give it a try, and finds that that woman is actually Ana, the teacher. As Ana guides Nancy and her classmates through their poses and breathing exercises, Nancy finds that she is able to let go of some of her stress, of some of her past attachments, and she likes this new part of herself.
The weeks go on, and Nancy has no friends other than the wife of a coworker of Chuck's, a kind but desperately lonely woman of the type Nancy had left behind. So as she continues to go to Ana's yoga class, and gets to know her better, Nancy finds herself more and more drawn to Ana's free spirit. Nancy makes other changes in her life. She embraces organic food and focuses on vegetables. She starts a garden and frequents the farmer's market. She finds herself lightening up, feeling more compassion, feeling hopeful.
Her friendship with Ana starts to blossom also. It starts with an afternoon talking in Ana's Jacuzzi on the ocean, and it builds to trying to help others. They make sandwiches and hand them out to the homeless. They write encouraging sayings on public sidewalks. The drive hitchhikers to their destination. They build good karma and wait for the universe to pay them back.
And slowly, Nancy starts to lose herself to the friendship. She finds herself spending more time with Ana than she planned to. She starts skipping family dinners. She keeps secrets. What started as an uplifting friendship between two women is slowly becoming something more. But what? And will Nancy realize in time and be able to save herself from the potentially dangerous consequences to herself and her family?
Swan Huntley's The Goddesses is an expertly crafted look at loneliness and friendship, at self-doubt and confidence, at attention and distraction. It's so beautifully written that it was painful to put this book aside and go back to real life (note: do not read this book on a quick work break; it will destroy you to have to put it down and will distract you until your next break. I'm being kind to tell you now. I had to find out the hard way). Anyone interested in the psychological consequences of a bad relationship will read this book with fascination. I can't recommend it enough. It is beautiful and heart-breaking and I loved every single page.
Galleys for The Goddesses were provided by Doubleday through NetGalley.com, with many thanks.