A recycled Christmas card, which the protagonists annually update, tracks the trajectory of their friendship.
Jane and Diana are temperamentally ill-suited to one another. First paired as Boston College roomies in 1963, Diana is large, brash and sloppy, while Jane is a petite, demure neat freak. Diana yearns to emulate her father, a Florida newspaper magnate, while Jane’s ambitions are limited to marrying her Harvard med-student boyfriend, David. From the start, David and Jane’s marriage is in trouble: David’s snobbish parents don’t approve of her homespun New England ancestry, and his father cuts the couple off when Jane fails to produce a grandson (the couple have one daughter, Kate). Diana, meanwhile, moves to Paris, taking a job with a journal run by Maurice, an acquaintance of her father. Savagely beaten by the police while covering the May 1968 student uprisings, Diana spends months recovering, after which she has a string of lovers and adventures until her father’s heart attack necessitates her return to Florida to manage his newspapers. David narrowly escapes disinheritance when his parents perish in a car accident and becomes a suburban gynecologist. As David turns increasingly cold and judgmental, wife Jane returns to her former job with a textbook publisher. After surprising him in bed with an assistant, Jane files for divorce, eventually scoring a hefty settlement. Diana marries Maurice after his wife, Solange, dies, and begins to come to terms with her mother’s insanity and lifelong confinement to a mental institution and her father’s homosexuality. Jane, singed by office politics, starts her own business, and Diana loses Maurice to lung cancer. From 1967 to 1986 the friends exchange the same Christmas card, alternately adding a line—it’s a clever device left largely unexploited.
Halting and clunky; this is a story that stops rather than ends.