‘The Soulmate’ by Sally Hepworth is a study in relationships and love

The question of love—is it something that hits like lightning at first sight or is it something that grows slowly, over time—is one of the issues that Sally Hepworth explores in her newest novel, “The Soulmate.” The other main issue is about trust and how much we can ever trust another person. As in many of her novels, Hepworth plays with the information she provides. The narrative is told from the perspectives of Amanda and Pippa, the two female main characters, with Amanda’s narrative providing “before” and “after” indicators and Pippa’s narrative shared with “now” and “then” labels.

The cataclysmic event is when Amanda falls over the cliff behind the house where Pippa, her husband Gabe, and their two children live. That point at the cliffs behind their property is called The Drop, and it’s where people have gone to commit suicide by throwing themselves from the top of the precipice. Since Pippa and her husband have moved into their house, Gabe has taken it upon himself to talk people out of jumping, and he’s been very successful.

Until that night when he wasn’t.

That night when Amanda was on the cliff, Pippa had an unsettling feeling that what she saw through the window doesn’t jibe completely with what Gabe is telling the police when they arrive, after it’s too late. It was dusk, so Pippa reassures herself that maybe she is mistaken. But Gabe also doesn’t tell the police—or Pippa—that he knows the woman who jumped. He worked for her husband. When Pippa finally finds out who the woman is, she stays quiet to protect Gabe.

That’s just the start of what we learn as throughout the novel Pippa, and then others, look the other way when Gabe misbehaves and acts in ways that show something is very wrong. Pippa loves Gabe, and on the surface, he is everything wonderful. He’s movie-star handsome and very engaging. People are drawn to him. But Pippa sees a different side to him, and for years she’s been willing to overlook his working late, not coming home nights, binge drinking, and changing of jobs.

When he finally gets a job with a successful media company, they both can’t believe their luck. He’s making good money, and Pippa is able to work part-time as an estate lawyer while she cares for the two children. But eventually, that happy situation comes to an end. All of this we learn as Hepworth juggles the past and present, showing us important events while saving others for the final reveal. She is leading us down one path while the truth is hidden over in the bushes.

Amanda, who is married to Max, also relates her story. Max started the media company Gabe ends up working for, and as we discover, Max has secrets of his own. Max and Amanda’s relationship is complex, but we see it grow and flourish as time goes by. What begins as almost a transactional arrangement becomes much more.

What Hepworth does so beautifully through the emotional and touching narrative is show us two women in very different relationships who travel in different arenas, but whose worlds collide with tragic results. Each woman struggles with trust in her marriage, and both women wonder just what their husbands are capable of doing.

Hepworth is the master of misdirection as she cleverly causes us to believe one thing only to unveil the truth later. But she saves the biggest surprises, and the most touching ones, to the very end. How much will a woman put up with in the name of love? That is a question with enough depth to surely keep any book club group talking well past the first bottle of wine.

Please note: This review was first posted on Bookreporter.com.