INTRODUCTIONWhat if the life you wanted, and the woman you fell in love with, belonged to someone else?
Chris and Claire Canton’s marriage is on life support. Downsized during the recession and out of work for a year, Chris copes by retreating to a dark place where no one can reach him, not even Claire. When he’s offered a position that will keep him away from home four nights a week, he dismisses Claire’s concern that time apart could be the one thing their fragile union can’t weather. Their suburban life may look idyllic on the outside, but Claire has never felt so disconnected from Chris, or so lonely.
Local police officer Daniel Rush used to have it all, but now he goes home to an empty house every night. He pulls Claire over during a routine traffic stop, and they run into each other again at the 4th of July parade. When Claire is hired to do some graphic design work for the police department, her friendship with Daniel grows, and soon they’re spending hours together.
Claire loves the way Daniel makes her feel, and the way his face lights up when she walks into the room. Daniel knows that Claire’s marital status means their relationship will never be anything other than platonic. But it doesn’t take long before Claire and Daniel are in way over their heads, and skating close to the line that Claire has sworn she’ll never cross.
ABOUT TRACEY GARVIS GRAVESTracey Garvis Graves is the author of the New York Times bestseller On the Island. She lives in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa, with her family. She loves hearing from her fans and can be found on Twitter @tgarvisgraves and at facebook.com/tgarvisgraves.
A CONVERSATION WITH TRACEY GARVIS GRAVES
1. Covet takes the perspective of three different characters. Why did you choose to use alternating perspectives? Which character was most difficult to write?
Covet is ultimately Claire’s story, but I felt it would be more relatable if I could show the reader why all three characters made the choices they did. I wanted to share their thoughts, motivations, and reactions. I thought it was the best way to highlight that there was no true villain in Covet, just three people who were trying to deal with their own issues. Chris was by far the most difficult character to write. I wanted the reader to sympathize with his actions, to understand why he shut Claire out, but I didn’t want to give him a free pass on his behavior, either.
2. What compelled you to write a novel about a relationship on the rocks? What challenges were there in executing the intricacies of Claire and Chris’ relationship?
My inspiration came from a real-life event. In the fall of 2008 my husband was in danger of being laid off. He was a valued employee and had been with his company for over fifteen years, but the recession was in full-swing and none of that mattered. I was a stay-at-home-mom at the time so the threat of losing our only source of income weighed heavily on my husband and me. Fortunately, he did not lose his job, but we knew many couples who weren’t so lucky. Most of my books start out as a question, and Covet was no different. I wondered, “What if my husband had lost his job? What if he wasn’t able to find another one? What effect would that have had on an otherwise strong marriage? The answers to those questions became the basis for Covet’s storyline. I just had to know what the outcome would be.
The most challenging thing about Chris and Claire’s relationship was to give them a conflict they could actually work through. It was very important to me that their difficulties not be insurmountable, which is one of the main reasons I never had Claire and Daniel cross a physical line.
3. What do you think are the most important rules for a happy marriage? Do you believe that “love is a pendulum,” as Claire ponders at the conclusion of the novel?
I firmly believe that communication is key. Many of Claire and Chris’s problems could have been solved by talking to each other. Claire made more than one attempt, but after Chris shut her out she eventually stopped trying. As outsiders, it’s so easy to think, “Why aren’t they talking?” But in reality, it is often the apathy that develops between a couple that ends up being their downfall.
I’ve been married for almost eighteen years, and I absolutely believe that love is a pendulum. Every marriage goes through periods of strength and weakness, but if you never give up, that pendulum will always return to where it should be.
- On page 14, Claire states that “there’s a big difference between a good father and a good husband.” Is Chris a good father? Is he a good husband? Do any of the men in the novel embody both traits?
- On page 4, Claire’s mother comments that Jordan “relishes order” as much Claire does. How does Jordan’s need for order factor into how she deals with her father’s absences?
- Explore how the relationship between Claire and Daniel develops. What was the point when their friendship turned into something more ambiguous? What do you think attracts Claire to Daniel, and vice versa?
- Claire’s decision to freelance originated out of economic necessity, but she continues taking on assignments even after Chris lands his job. Why do you think she continues working? What does she enjoy about her job?
- On page 14, Claire says that she has “worked hard to keep the façade of this marriage, this life, intact, but only to avoid becoming fodder for the neighborhood gossip mill.” How does this pressure to keep up appearances affect Claire throughout the novel? Bridget? Elisa? Julia?
- In your opinion, did Claire cheat on Chris with Daniel? Discuss the boundary between emotionally cheating and physically cheating. At what point in the novel—if any—do you think Claire and Daniel crossed the line?
- Over the course of the novel, Julia’s drinking becomes increasingly more frequent and more dangerous. How does her behavior affect her relationships with her neighbors?
- How is Claire’s role as parent made more difficult by Chris’ absences? How does his travel interrupt the family dynamic? How does it affect the children?
- How does the unexpected visit from Dylan act as a catalyst for Daniel and Claire to examine their relationship?
- On page 79, Claire mentions that during the darkest period of Chris’ unemployment, she did not seek him out as a “partner, a confidante…[or] a lover.” By the end of the novel, is Chris able to fulfill these roles?
- Throughout the novel, the three narrators each express guilt over how their relationships are being conducted. Explore why each of them feels guilt, how it manifests over the course of the novel, and what they do to mitigate it.
- Throughout Covet, Elisa warns Claire to be careful with how she spends her time with Daniel, but Claire routinely dismisses her, claiming she and Daniel are just friends. Do you think men and women can really be platonic friends? If so, are there any behavioral rules or boundaries that should be implemented or respected?
- Though Chris believes Claire when she says she did not have a physical relationship with Daniel, he is not entirely uncomfortable with the idea of their friendship. What steps does Claire take to regain her husband’s trust?
- By the end of the novel, Claire questions whether it’s possible to love two men at once. Do you think Claire really loves Daniel? Does he love her?
- What lessons can you take from Covet and apply in your own relationships?