A first novel with a particularly chilling take on the theme of suburban wholesomeness run amok. When the Powell family moved to Meander, Ill., in 1959, their peaceful domesticity became a nightmare that 10-year-old Penny had predicted but could not prevent. Now an adult with children of her own, Penny relates the story of her family's tragic year in Meander with the insight she had as a precocious child. Bob and Dotty Powell made an auspicious start by moving into the grand house that had formerly belonged to Chan Bishop, Meander's wealthiest citizen and playboy. But keeping up with the neighbors required an outlay of cash that Bob couldn't afford, especially when he discovered that his partner, Archie, was stealing from him. Bob never told Dotty the extent of their impending financial disaster, and she happily -- if awkwardly -- slipped into her new lifestyle, transforming herself from rube to socialite. Meanwhile, while Penny's teenage sister Nancy was becoming an anorexic, Penny hoarded money and food in an effort to save them all from the doom she sensed was imminent. Penny, obsessed with the story of how Chart's wife had deserted him, thought that if Chan's wife came back, her own family would be safe. And she was right, in a way, because Chan's loneliness, like Archie's dishonesty, would play a part in the Powelis' decline. Yet the Poweils' marriage had never been idyllic. Bob failed constantly in an effort to gain his father's approval and belittled Dotty to aggrandize himself, while she was forever frustrated in her domestic role and angry that she'd been denied a medical career. Penny discovers years later that it was neither the money nor Meander that was responsible for her family's undoing: It was Bob and Dotty themselves -- their flawed relationship, their unresolved problems. The story moves along like a car accelerating toward a cliff, pulling the reader over with a heart-stopping -- but satisfying -- crash.