First-novelist Dressler tells a largely formulaic tale of a Dutch-Indonesian woman making a new life in California after surviving WW II. When the narrator, twentysomething Marget, a dancer, comes to help out while Gerda, one of her two grandmothers, has knee surgery, she's not entirely motivated by family piety. She's pregnant, the affair with the baby's father is over, and, as is usual in the genre, there are matters of family history to be resolved. Admitting that she comes from a family who ``don't like to name things. . . [who] prefer to keep them folded away in shut drawers,'' Marget soon alerts us to upcoming revelations. Fan and Gerda, her grandmothers, are of mixed Dutch and Indonesian blood, born in Indonesia when it was still a Dutch colony. Only Fan, in actuality, is Marget's blood relative. When the Japanese occupied Indonesia, Gerda, a champion tennis player and the widow of a wealthy businessman, rescued Fan and her baby daughter, Marget's mother, and kept them out of the internment camps by playing tennis for the Japanese. When the Japanese retreated and civil war broke out, Gerda and Fan—by then lovers—and the baby fled first to Singapore, then to Holland. Fan's husband, who'd been a prisoner of war, divorced her, and then the trio immigrated to California. In the days leading up to Gerda's operation, Marget has ample time to reflect on her family's history, to observe how the women have aged, and to ponder her own situation, which she has kept secret from the family. The operation is a success, and she learns a few family secrets from an aunt that only deepen her love for Fan. Armed with the obligatory empowering insight (``the past sometimes makes an answer in the future''), Marget is now ready to have her baby. Luminous prose isn't enough to spark a low-watt story.
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