In Conley’s (Bread and Stones, 1986, etc.) novel, a New York businesswoman confronts embezzlement by her own son.
Trading in diverse commercial real estate holdings and amassing a multimillion-dollar portfolio, Letty Lear has invested years of her life protecting and providing for her three children. She’s nearly 70 when her attorney advises that she incorporate and make her children (and him) the board of directors, thus giving them access to her finances. After her husband left her years ago for a man, Letty worked her way up, becoming a formidable matriarch with an acerbic wit, holding her own in a tough real estate market, and usually getting her way with her kids. Astute Letty is a force to be reckoned with—sharp and sharp-tongued, opinionated, funny, and at times charitable, not necessarily with money. Her oldest child, David, is an activist who’s taken in a Burmese refugee, precocious Tong, raising him as his son. Middle child Kate, recently separated, is a clutter therapist, and the youngest, Luna, is the sweet-natured mother of twins. David is increasingly concerned about poverty and violence in Darfur, as is his mentor, Jonathan Greene, who hopes to provide aid to alleviate a deteriorating situation. Eventually, funds will transfer from the Gates Foundation, but during the delay, people are dying in Darfur. By clandestinely borrowing Letty’s millions, David can provide relief now and postpone dealing with the consequences, which are considerable and not borne entirely by him. The novel shares some elements of Shakespeare’s King Lear, most notably a powerful, aging familial head ceding control of property to heirs, setting all in motion. The result is a touching comedy/drama of family dynamics, finances, business, and legalities. At 12, street-smart Tong is a standout character, more like Letty than her children. A natural leader, he’s disarmingly intelligent, reliable in an emergency, and resistant to David’s efforts to groom him for activism. Although the novel is hardly Shakespearean tragedy, it’s a well-crafted story of rebirth through crisis and finding redemption in unlikely places.
Well-characterized, entertaining tale with a resilient heroine whose golden years take an unexpected turn.