Protagonists who tackle life's uncertainties often project uncommon courage and a feisty attitude - but not Mallory Cooper, who has chosen to hide out in the small town of Great Wharf, Maine because of her agoraphobia and loss and because there she can snuggle with her soul mate and life-long anchor, husband Dwight, and watch the world go by safely, via television.
Although the major events in her homebound life revolve around vivid descriptions such as the perils of housecleaning ("I washed under the counter edges, and I dusted everything, including the leaves on the fern. I even risked life and limb on the stepladder to dust the overhead light. Little did you know while you were chatting with tourists at the trolley museum that your wife was this close to a fatal fall."), all this is about to change when she leaves the house and walks right into a world replete with more dangers than house dust.
As in many a story, the proof of a superior production lies not so much in the plot itself, but in the personalities of the protagonists - and its here that Meredith Marple shines. From the compelling probes of the town gossip to how a once-joyful mother becomes trapped at home and must force herself to blossom anew, The Year Mrs. Cooper Got Out More is replete with insights. Mallory's underlying rationales for seeking out safety after a seemingly-full life, her dip into therapy ("Think back now to that upsetting dream you told me about, the one where you were buried alive and no one would know where you were. I think these things are related. I think your fear in both situations relates to a feeling of never having existed in your parents' eyes, especially your mother's eyes."), her confrontations with new ideas, possibilities, and directions, and the influence of therapy on her choices and ability to act on these new options all weave into the quietly-compelling saga of one woman's transition.
Don't expect nonstop action and vivid drama, here: The Year Mrs. Cooper Got Out More is more on the level of the bucolic English novel that depicts loving relationships challenged by life's ups and downs. As Mallory finds new purpose and new strength to challenge threats to this fragile persona ("...we go along living our everyday lives, doing so many of the same things every day, and, as often as not, with accidental deaths anyway, it's those very things that may do us in. I guess what I'm trying to point out is that I hope you're not going to add fear of stairs to your list of things to be worried about."), readers follow her uncertain steps into a realm where even murder is not an impossibility.
Yes, it's ultimately a murder mystery - but unlike many genre reads, there's nothing 'formula' about The Year Mrs. Cooper Got Out More. Mallory and Dwight's evolving life is just as compelling (and even more deeply explored) than the murder scene itself - and that's what keeps its story line refreshing, compelling, and ultimately a winning standout from many genre peers.