A lyrical first novel from Pierce (stories: Galaxy Girls: Wonder Women, 1994) about a tragic death and a corresponding
Part expos‚ of survivor’s guilt and part family chronicle, the tale opens with a dramatic crash: driving home drunk one
winter night, Leonarda and her boyfriend, Danny, slide off a bridge and into the Charles River, killing Danny and transforming
Leo’s life. Driven by the slow exploration of its eccentric characters, the narrative spans nine months, from the accident to the
birth of the child Leo didn’t know she was carrying when they crashed. She attempts to continue life as planned, finishing her
thesis and preparing her audition piece at the conservatory where she studies violin, while also grappling with the approach of
single parenthood in the shadow of death. Slowly rebuilding ties with her otherworldly parents also strains the normally retiring
Leo, though at the same time these struggles serve as impetus for her in finding an identity that’s separate both from the
domineering Danny and from her dramatically consuming parents. Some of the more engaging episodes spring from Leo’s childhood memories of her family’s blissfully lonely old Cambridge house: sleeping on the widow’s walk, tightrope-walking
the banister, creating her own, odd animal sanctuary—raising herself because her parents couldn’t. Lydia, a recluse since Leo’s birth, provided for her daughter little besides an image of sorrowful beauty, while August, when not working in the invention
room, doted on his wife. When Leo returns to the family roost, life is unchanged, save that some of the heirlooms have been
pawned to pay for toast and tea. Into the small chaos of Leo’s life wanders Kilroy, a chess player with his head in the air and
feet on the ground, who offers Leo unconditional love and stability. As the baby’s birth approaches, small miracles start to
bloom, transforming all the lives touched by Leo, and by Danny’s death.
Small in scope, but an elegant foray into beauty gleaned from tragedy.