In a delightful fifth novel, Mapson (Loving Chloe, 1998, etc.) brings her eponymous heroines fully to life and credibly orchestrates their different, necessary squirmings through a year of heartbreak on a New Mexico horse farm. Rose, at 40 the elder of the sisters, is stuck in modest circumstances and frozen in subdued grief for her husband, recently killed by a drunk driver. Her children have left home and left Rose empty, though she flirts around a romance with her boss, Austin Donavan, an alcoholic veterinarian. Meanwhile, Lily, a sales rep in southern California for a surgical equipment company, yanks down a hefty paycheck at the price of her soul, has dozens of loveless encounters, and misses her hometown of Floralee, New Mexico. The sisters meet up again at their parents— ranch, and Mapson, with subtle emotional insights and fluid narration, chronicles their hopes and disappointments over the course of one fateful year. Rose falls for (then rejects) a double-crossing (then repentant) Austin; Lily rekindles a romance with high-school flame Tres, despite memories of the child he fathered (and she aborted) when they were 18. Tres, a former psychiatrist, and Austin, who drinks away his grief over a painful divorce, both come with baggage, but their humanity is not slighted by the author. Mapson spins an enjoyable yarn that doesn—t disdain earned sorrow: the funeral for Shep, the grizzled and wise ranch manager felled by prostate cancer, will bring some tears. Essentially a story about reconciliation and compromise, this warm, frank narrative talks honestly about limits, betrayal, and the possibility that risk- taking will out in the long run over the safety of despair. Mapson is particularly refreshing as a portraitist: she knows the Wilder sisters well and needs no help from Freud to illuminate their conflicted, frustrated, ambitious inner lives. A clean, honest, easy, unadorned tale.
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