A houseful of women, who make sense of their complicated, often tragic lives by ritually recounting them over afternoon tea, deals with a harrowing death and a long-delayed revelation. As she did in Rachel Chance (1990), Thesman includes so many dramatic circumstances here that her story falls into melodrama. Grayling, 14, doesn't know why Mother abandoned her after her father was killed, becoming a driven, inaccessible businesswoman, fearfully barricaded in her sterile apartment. She does know that Grandmother and the painfully arthritic black physician, Belle, who lives with them, are planning to honor their promise to cousin Olivia (who is upstairs dying of cancer) to end her misery. But will Belle be caught by vicious Doctor Clement, whose daughter Colleen wants to escape her criminal new stepbrother by moving in with Grandmother? And that's not all. Not nearly. It would be easy to parody these over-abundant events; it's also easy to complain of implausibilities (would these competent old women really be so careless, and indiscreet, as to let a young girl be aware of their merciful act?) and flaws (Clement is foiled by his daughter's transparent lie). Still, the engaging warmth among the characters, the beguiling menage, the intriguing details, the thoughtful theme concerning nurturing, and (yes) the involving plot all make it easy to slide past the excesses.