"Marshall has the essential novelist's gift, the creation of vivid characters," said the New York Times. In her new novel, she has again created a cast both real and vibrant.
At sixty-three, Judge Gregory Brennan is on the brink of retirement. With his youngest daughter headed for college, he envisions traveling abroad, basking in a repose that his demanding career has not allowed, with his wife, Audrey, at his side. But Audrey has other ambitions. At forty-nine, she sees the mythic empty nest as an opportunity to explore her own potential as a medical student. When Audrey reveals her plans, Gregory is overwhelmed, and he emotionally retreats, causing a rift that neither one of them ever anticipated.
Marshall has been praised for her insight into the complexities of modern marriage, capturing it as "an institution about competing needs and shifting wants" (Baltimore Sun). In The Court of Common Pleas, marriage is not unlike the general trial court where Gregory presides. But the ruling in Gregory and Audrey's own case remains to be seen. Can their disparate life plans be mediated and their differences reconciled? Marshall offers a nuanced portrait of a marriage in the throes of a midlife crisis and reveals, with an encompassing kindness, the tenderness, frustration, bewilderment, and ultimately the joy of a marriage willed to endure.