In Osborn's vitriolic first novel, a young woman grapples with the crippling legacy of her dysfunctional family—a struggle charged with universal loathing and extreme self-pity, making for an unusually unpleasant debut. It was the prosperous late 1950's and the Arbuthnot family lived like many others, apparently, in their roomy suburban house in New Jersey. While Mrs. Arbuthnot, a German-American housewife, devoted herself to Weight Watchers meetings and the Kennedy campaign, Shep, her husband, worked hard as an ad executive for a food packager; older brother Kyle earned stellar grades in preparation for life as a philosophy professor; and sister Megan tagged along after her father, playing the quintessential daddy's girl. But all was not as it seemed. In fractured prose, fantasy, and fragments of dreams, a grown-up Megan recalls how her father's alcoholism gradually destroyed the fabric of this already loosely knit family, leading to a catalogue of depravities—including corporate corruption, marital infidelity, and the sexual abuse of Megan herself. Mrs. Arbuthnot's efforts to conceal—beneath a cloak of respectability—her husband's activities only increased the suffering as Shep ever more brazenly assaulted his daughter and withdrew from his son, as Kyle fought against his mother's smothering love, and as Megan dreamed of escape and protection. Even after Shep's business crimes are finally discovered, his wife divorces him, and the family scatters across the country, the Arbuthnots' deepest secrets continue to fester, corrupting all those who keep them. The result is a wreck with no survivors and a story with no heroes—a timely but irritating tale.
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