This earnest domestic drama set on Cape Cod covers all three bases of family relationships—siblings, spouses, parents and children—as well as the left field of uncle and nieces.
When he finds himself jobless, homeless, and single, 42-year-old Vance comes to stay in the childhood home where his twin brother, Craig, still lives with his second wife, Gina, their two young children, and Craig’s 17-year-old daughter from his first marriage, Amanda. Vance, the seemingly more sensitive if less responsible brother, envies and resents straight-arrow Craig’s relative success, but no one in this family is happy or exactly likable, and each harbors a store of secrets, guilt, moral dilemmas, and resentments. More than $250,000 in debt, builder Craig is desperately counting on two not-quite-solid projects to bail himself out. He also still blames himself for the death of Amanda’s mother in a diving accident 11 years ago. Gina, a Harvard grad with design aspirations, is dissatisfied merely running a boutique. Frustrated in her marriage to uncommunicative Craig, she's tempted into flirtation with the twins’ longtime friend Dov, who plans to have Craig build his new restaurant. The biggest secret of all, and the one that affects everyone eventually, is held by Amanda. Already accepted to Dartmouth (natch, in this novel full of Ivy Leaguers and rich-people problems), she was caught smoking pot at school after her boyfriend, incidentally Dov’s son, dumped her; instead of being expelled, she was sent to Chile, where she met a guy and got “in trouble.” She’s desperate not to be pregnant, but her father is against abortion for reasons from his youth that he is not sharing. Meanwhile, Vance runs into his old high school girlfriend, coincidentally the riding teacher of his poignantly underappreciated 6-year-old niece, Helen, and the guilty secret that has haunted him since their breakup surfaces.
Miller (Brand New Human Being, 2012) is refreshing in her approach to abortion, but too many coincidences and parallels in plot and character connections weaken the novel.