Further continental misadventures of infantile adults, seen through the eyes of their preternaturally mature children.
This sequel to By the Shore (1999) revisits sensitive teenaged narrator May, her brother Eden and their selfish, frenetic mother Lucy. In characteristically melodramatic fashion, Lucy declares that she’s leaving May’s long-suffering father Simon. She takes her children to her parents’ home in rural England and then, without warning, to America. While May is manifestly dismayed by the idea of “going on holiday” to California, there’s also the promise of reinvention for this blossoming girl to consider. Muses May: “Off the plane, tanned, wearing a denim jacket, my hair wavy and bright blond from the sun. Maybe even an American accent. A new girl, thin and confident. With something changed about me, that no one could quite place; straightened like a book spine.” Instead May and Eden find themselves practically kidnapped by their mother, delivered to a religious retreat called “The Pavarti Ashram,” led by a manipulative guru-slash-mother superior. The author gives May a delicate, distinctive voice, and she is the stand-out character in this story, not her bizarre surroundings or the insufferable violations visited upon her by her appalling mother. May, so curious and articulate about the world around her, would prove equally interesting had she simply stayed home.
The trials of adolescence don’t stand a chance against the absurdity of grown-ups.