Father Greeley slaps in the fourth brick in his Chicago O’Malleys saga, begun with A Midwinter’s Tale (1998).
Rosemarie’s psychopathic father is dead, Rosemarie has inherited wealth, is now a recovering alcoholic and, with five kids, thinks herself as oversexed as husband Chucky does. A decorated Korean vet and famous photographer of the Little Rock racial imbroglio and of Germany, Chucky was named Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany by Jack Kennedy, although he now argues with new President LBJ about his Vietnam policy and foresees his own sons fighting in Vietnam in ten years. Chuck resigns and takes the family back to Chicago. But this time, brilliantly, Greeley has assigned the storytelling to Rosemarie, who becomes quite an amusing if underweight sexpot as well as a firebrand when Selma erupts and she hauls Chuck and his camera down to the Alabama barricades. Bossy Rosemarie, against Chuck’s wishes, marches 50 miles, singing “We shall overcome” with Dr. Martin Luther King and a pair of nuns. This leads to the liberal O’Malleys becoming radicals, with Beatles-loving daughter April Rosemary, a student at Trinity High School, embarrassed to tears because her parents are always on television defending the Alabama Negroes (“If they can’t help themselves, isn’t it their fault!”), though later, at Harvard, she becomes most vocal and drops out of the family, calling herself “irrelevant.” Chuck soon bunks down in a hooch at Khe Sanh where the Marines burn bodies (some wearing Catholic medals) left behind by the Viet Cong. Rosemarie grows even more underweight with Chuck in Nam, and though he returns safely she still has horrifying rape dreams from her late father’s abuse. They are in the kitchen with Bobby Kennedy when Sirhan Sirhan shoots him; and when they attend the Democratic Convention in Chicago, both are beaten by the police, Rosemary badly. By story’s end, Rosemarie turns to writing short stories, her eye on The New Yorker.
Fast, fun, undemanding.