Anna is 42. The boy is 20. And yes, he has a name. His name is Jack. The Boy is the story of Anna and Jack’s brief but catastrophic affair and as tragic love affairs go, this one has its strengths and its weaknesses.
Anna meets Jack at a party her neighbour, Richard, is throwing.
The boy wore dark, baggy clothes so there was no discerning the profile of his body, yet Anna could tell, simply by the way he sat, that it must be a good one. She raised her eyes to his with calculated slowness and found to her surprise that they were free of fear, free of pretense, free of the myriad layers stretched by age over the human eye.
Okay, I’m not really sure what the last bit means but I’m just going to paraphrase here and say that Jack had it goin’ on and Anna was eventually unable to resist. He is pretty cocky.
There are some obstacles to their forbidden love. For one thing, Anna has an eight-year-old-daughter, Eva, who often seems like more of an adult than her mother. For another Anna has a slightly checkered past. (There were/are some issues with alcohol/drugs.) Then there’s her ex back in England. And okay, yes, there’s a huge age gap between Anna and Jack but Jack isn’t a witless sex toy. (And there’s no graphic sex in this book anyway.) It’s all complicated and fraught, as lives often are.
When Eva goes to spend a few weeks of the summer with her dad, Anna gives in to the boy’s siren call and before you can say MILF, Jack’s moved his stuff into Anna’s house. Partly, Anna is looking for a way to reclaim her own lost youth. Partly, she seems to genuinely care for Jack. But they are living in a bubble that bursts when Eva returns from England.
Driving Eva to school one morning Anna loses her temper:
“Is this a joke?” she said. “After everything I have done for you? After all the sacrifices I’ve made for you, suddenly I have the audacity to tell you to stop ordering me around and you’re not talking to me. I have given you everything, Eva. Everything. I have traded my own life for yours. In fact, I haven’t had a life. You have. I haven’t. And this is what I get.”
This is, I think, the impetus for Anna’s affair with Jack. He’s this beautiful, motherless boy who wants her and she wants to forget, just for a little while that she has responsibilities that make it impossible for her to have whatever she wants. “We have children,” she says. “We have children, and they’re nothing we’re prepared for.”
Ain’t that the truth.