Two 30-ish sisters from a once-dominant Hudson Valley family, reunited after the death of their bewildering, loving, and then fickle mother, are in open conflict. As their recent life-styles clash, they fall in love with the same man, wrangle over methods of saving the family's land, and deal with painful memories. A reconciliation (after revelations) is long coming in this agreeable but overly explicative first novel. Augusta Woolsey Bean, a Hollywood talent agent, returns to the family home on the Upper Hudson after Mother's death—to quiet, beekeeping father Henry and younger sister Nellie, Mother's constant companion through her illness. The family apple orchards are in trouble; Augusta, the career woman, demands sacrifices, and the battle is joined. Both women are obsessed with Mother. Why, thinks Augusta, did Mother at one point remove her love? Did she really love Nellie best—or at all? And why does Augusta have trouble with sex? This latter puzzler is addressed with William Hurley, a lawyer returned from far places to the village. Lovemaking with William, it turns out, is tops, but then Nellie claims him—and then while William and Nellie sleuth nearby malicious toxic dumping, Augusta becomes deeply immersed in Mother's diaries. Could William's father also be hers? Ancestors' dark deeds are exposed, and then the curse of lust, guilt, and fear is lifted, and the sisters, now knowing the real woman, their mother, are reconciled in love. A bit long-winded, with too much talking and musing from rather limp characters, but the ambiance is fine and the bit of action—the hunt for the illegal dumper—energizing.
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