A debut novel from Halpin (Losing My Faculties: A Teacher’s Story, 2003, etc.) shows a teenager growing reconciled to the death of her mother as she comes to know (and live with) her father for the first time.
Losing a mother (to paraphrase Oscar Wilde) is a tragedy; losing two of them sounds like carelessness—especially when you never had a father. Poor Rosalind Butterfield, at 14, has a lot to figure out. Her mother, Eva, died recently when a poultry truck fell over and dumped a load of frozen chickens on her and her lesbian girlfriend Sandy on an otherwise ordinary Boston afternoon. A retired actress best known for her role in a popular TV sitcom, Eva had been artificially impregnated with the seed of her friend Sean Cassidy, a public-interest lawyer whose identity was kept secret from Rosalind until after the accident—when Sean (who’d never met Rosalind) was awarded custody. From Rosalind’s perspective it’s out of the frying pan into the fire: Not only has she lost her mother, but she’s been saddled with a dorky, single, middle-aged loser who dresses like a high-school principal and looks like someone who’s never had a date in his life. But Sean comes through, slowly and ineluctably. Although he freaks out when Rosalind comes home late and nags her about her smoking, he also saves her tail when she beats up a kid at school and is almost expelled. And he cuts her enough slack to let her spend Thanksgiving with her aunt Karen and to drop the guidance counselor who has been driving her crazy. It still sucks—Mom is never coming back, and Sean is impossibly out of it (like all grownups)—but Rosalind is beginning to see some light on the horizon. Maybe it’s what they call growing up.
Crisp and coherent but still something of a soap opera: obvious, two-dimensional, not wholly convincing.