A novel from Ginsberg (The Grift, 2008, etc.) about a middle-class, seemingly genteel San Diego neighborhood teeming with secrets that unravel in the aftermath of a California wildfire.
Spreading fire forces the residents to evacuate in October 2007. Once the neighbors return home, they realize that one of them has disappeared: Diana, a teenage mother who has been living in her father’s house for only a few months. Flash back to July and pregnant Diana’s sudden arrival—she had been raised by her African-American mother in Las Vegas—which badly disrupts the childless marriage of her dad Joe, a restaurant manager who has avoided any contact with his daughter, and his pretty blond wife Allison. Through the summer and fall Allison, who still resents that Joe pressed her to abort when she became pregnant early in their relationship, slips into a drunken funk, while Joe slides into an affair with a sleazy neighbor. Diana hangs out with Kevin, the neighborhood druggie. Kevin’s uptight parents Dick and Dorothy seem like Republican caricatures, but Dorothy is covering up more than her daily pill-popping. And her unlikely confidante is Sam, half of the lesbian couple across the street. Thrown together through their kindergarten-age sons, Sam and her younger lover Gloria left their husbands for each other, but their passionate relationship has been disintegrating since the ex-husbands sued successfully for custody of the boys. By the day of the fire, Diana has given birth to baby Zoë and rejected both Allison’s pressure to put Zoë up for adoption and Kevin’s marriage proposal. When the evacuation order comes, Allison leaves the house—and her marriage—assuming Joe will come home to get his daughter and granddaughter. But Sam is the one who finds Zoë alone in Diana’s bedroom. Diana’s disappearance exposes open wounds among all the families whose lives she touched.
Suburban noir—dark, funny and sometimes creepy; readers may be surprised at the amount of empathy they end up feeling for less-than-appealing characters.