More angst and sex among the intricately interconnected Southern families Gilchrist (Nora Jane, 2005, etc.) has been following in fiction for nearly 30 years.
This time the focus is on 30-something cousins Winifred Hand Abadie, Louise Hand Healy and Olivia Hand. Three months before Winifred was to be married, her fiancé “perished on September 11, 2001, along with three thousand other perfectly lovely, helpless human beings.” (Gilchrist’s fondness for superlative-laden prose remains unchanged.) Louise, a TV documentary writer/producer, falls into bed and marriage with the dead fiancé’s 24-year-old cousin Carl, 12 years her junior. Carl is home visiting twin brother and fellow marine Brian, who got his chin blown off in Afghanistan. The twins enlisted after their cousin was killed; they and most of the other characters unhesitatingly support the notion that the U.S. campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq are justified responses to the 9/11 attacks. In short order, Louise is pregnant and Winifred has taken up with Brian, then the scene shifts to Oklahoma. Olivia is the editor of the Tulsa World, whose publisher allows her to write cozily first-person editorials. She gets back together with ex-husband Bobby, and pretty soon she’s pregnant too. They’re married again, and Bobby’s reserve unit is called to active duty. Louise and Winifred basically drop out of the picture, except as part of the Greek chorus of extended family that comments on the action in every Gilchrist novel. With all three women married to Marines, the book is understandably concerned with war, and the author seems to intend a political point of some sort. Whatever she’s trying to say, however, gets lost in her characters’ ludicrously shallow political conversations, and in a narrative so casually developed that readers may wonder whether Gilchrist ever bothers to reread, let alone revise.
Trivial treatment of a big subject: The author seems to be coasting on her fans’ memories and good wishes.