Six gifted sisters compete for their Darwin-obsessed father’s fortune—and love—in this Manhattan comedy of manners.
Blessed with beauty, intelligence and poise, the Barnacle daughters—Bell, Bridget, Beth, Belinda, Beryl, Benita—are, to their father Barry, a triumph of nature over nurture. What they are not, however, is a male heir. With that in mind, the Brooklyn-born “Pantyhose Prince” chooses the family’s annual Passover Seder to announce that whichever one of his girls can find a way to “immortalize the Barnacle name” within one week will be the sole beneficiary of his self-made fortune. An avid amateur scientist, Barry thinks he is encouraging a healthy competition among his daughters, but his intentions backfire as the sisters, ranging in age from 10 to 29, scheme against each other in an upper-class survival of the fittest. Will the father choose glamorous Bridget, scientific prodigy Beth or, perhaps, Machiavellian tween Benita? Niederhoffer ably invokes the hormonal chaos of young women, but like the girls themselves, her prose sometimes seems a bit too enamored of its own cleverness. The story exhibits the most heart when following pregnant, unwed Bell. Newly returned to the fold, she is the eldest and most heavily burdened of the sisters. The story of her struggle to make peace with her deeply flawed but loving parents delivers the most satisfying emotional return.
A confident and witty debut that brings to mind an eccentric combination of The Virgin Suicides and Little Women.