The End of an Error is billed on its dust jacket as "a story about the path not taken and the risk, in middle age, of changing direction and retracing the steps of your youth." The person on that path is Lee Emery, a married fifty year-old mother of three grown children. Her husband Ben is a college professor in a small Maine town.
A very minor local press has just published Lee's memoir of her grandmother's fascinating life. The look back in time stirs many memories for Lee. She met and fell in love with Simon in London when she was eighteen. Later, when Lee's parents died in a plane crash, she married Ben for security instead of going to Simon.
Years passed and the Emery family grows by three. All the while Lee takes second place to Ben's research about an obscure Maine woodsman. An academic opportunity in London sends the Emerys across the pond. An emotionally intense reunion makes it clear that Simon still has Lee's heart.
The End of an Error is a great title, because it makes readers wonder of the error was Lee's leaving Simon to marry Ben or staying with Ben when it's clear she still loves Simon.
Mameve Medwed's third novel moves between the past and present. Lee's history is detailed in order to explain why she married Ben. The author's Down East setting and utilization of egocentric academic life fit nicely with the tale.
Much is said about the humor in The End of an Error. Anita Shreve called it "outrageously funny." Frankly, the extreme jocularity didn't register on my radar. There are some amusing moments, but they aren't weighted against the novel's drama.
The End of an Error has a satisfying conclusion. It's fulfilling without being too convenient. Medwed leaves just enough mystery for readers to question the possibilities and ask themselves what if?