A family gathers around a dying patriarch who reveals a transforming secret.
In advance of their widowed father’s arrival from California, each of the three successful, adult Bramble children—Margaret, Edie and Max—experience private internal crises: Margaret, a take-charge wife and mother of three in suburban New Jersey, worries that she is not up to the task of caring for her father. At the same time, she tries to talk herself out of an irrational yearning to have a fourth child. Edie, the youngest of the three, on the surface seems to be thriving—she lives in Manhattan and works hard at a rewarding job in television. But her hidden, life-long battle with an eating disorder is finally taking its toll. And Max, a producer of infomercials and corporate videos who wonders where his artistic aspirations went, quits his job in a fit of pique, even though he is the sole breadwinner for his family. That was three weeks ago and he still hasn’t told his wife, who believes his changed behavior signals he is having an affair. Neither the ease with which their father settles in at Margaret’s, nor his articulate stoicism about his incurable illness, assuages his children’s panic. The family members most at ease with the situation are Margaret’s three young children, whose sweet frankness about death could teach all the adults a lesson, and Arthur himself, who, in deciding to reveal a lifelong secret he and his wife kept from their children, has made peace with himself and his imminent death. Minot (The Tiny One, 1999) moves nimbly from one character’s consciousness to the next, illustrating the power of family to hurt and to heal. She is especially adept at conveying the heckle-jeckle confusion that rules a household full of children and the clarion moments of truth that occasionally sound above the din.
A moving portrait of the ties that bind.