Amanda Eyre Ward’s The Lifeguards is set in Austin, Texas, and revolves around 3 mothers who live in an upscale neighbourhood: Whitney, a highly successful real estate agent, trophy wife Annette, who is married to an oil fund heir and the odd woman out in this trio, Liza, a single parent and food writer, who hustles for extra cash by doing menial work such as walking dogs. The sons of these three women, Charlie (Liza), Xavier (Whitney) and Bobcat (Annette) are friends, constantly in each other’s company. It’s the end of the school year, and the three boys are lifeguards, or they are going to be full-time summer lifeguards starting the very next morning, so the novel opens with a sense of accomplishment and goals met. The 3 mothers can breathe a sigh of relief, right?
The action starts almost immediately when the boys return in a state of agitation and the news that they found a dead woman “on the greenbelt.” It’s obvious right away that the boys are more involved than they admit. The plot then splinters into chapters told by the mothers, their sons, a detective and a chat group. As the investigation explores the facts behind the death of the woman, the families hire lawyers. These people have extremely privileged backgrounds with Liza hanging on to that status through osmosis for dear life.
The book felt a little disjointed at times, and I found it impossible to connect (care) about any of the characters. The main moral question here: how far will parents go for their children is an interesting one, but the story boils down to the mysterious death. Was this a crime? If so, who did it? All the other stuff (the privilege, the botox) seemed like icing.