I’m not sure Ellison’s family drama with its slow reveal shouldn’t be called A Series of Significant Indiscretions, as there are so many. Both past and present. The true title, A Small Indiscretion, leads a reader to believe that our protagonist, Annie Black’s happiness is at risk by the revelation of a past mistake. But really, she and her family might have overcome any part of her past, if only she will behave as the adult she’s grown into instead of the nineteen year old self she fled from twenty years ago.
When we first meet Annie she is a young, single American working in a London architectural firm. When not working, she’s drinking with her boss, sleeping with his boarder, and tip-toeing around the boss’ wife. With an abundance of complicated entanglements there is bad behavior on all parts. Begging the question, which indiscretion is that of the title?
Fast forward to the present and we find Annie comfortably settled into a life she claims to love. Yet, on a business trip to London, Annie picks up her bad behavior right where she left off, essentially trashing her perfect marriage. When her oldest son is involved in a near-fatal accident, the family’s tailspin increases in velocity. An accident that eventually pinpoints the particular indiscretion of the title.
I don’t like 40 year old Annie any better than I like 19 year old Annie, and I’m dismayed that other characters find her compelling. The ending, which left me thinking, “whatever,” ties up far too nicely to be believed, or deserved.