A stodgy Midwestern socialite is forced to re-evaluate many of her deeply held beliefs in this stunning debut.
Violet Baumgartner has been crafting an annual Christmas letter for the past three decades, providing detailed updates about the goings-on in the picturesque life of the Baumgartner family. This year’s letter is particularly exciting because Violet’s doting husband, “dear Ed,” is retiring from his lifelong career as a medical researcher. While Ed spent most of his married years toiling away in the lab, Violet has thrown herself into leadership roles in her church community as well as various charitable endeavors. Most of all, Violet has enjoyed raising her now-grown daughter, Cerise. As is her way, Violet has given 110 percent to planning a spectacular formal retirement party for Ed, with every detail choreographed. Unfortunately, when the party occurs, the local celebrity who has come to speak about Ed also reveals during her toast that Cerise and her female partner, Barb, are expecting a baby. Violet is flummoxed that her daughter is pregnant and even more so by the fact that she doesn’t know how the baby was conceived or who the father might be. She faints in front of their party guests, cracks her skull, and is rushed to the hospital. Thank goodness Ed is no longer working so he is home to care for Violet, whose slow recuperation leaves her unable to micromanage every aspect of her family’s life. Even so, Violet embarks on a quest from her recovery bed to unearth the identity of her grandbaby’s father, risking her own relationship with her daughter in the process. Violet also inadvertently discovers many secrets about the members of her family and her community during her investigation, which threatens to further derail her overly quaint existence. This is a complicated novel full of subtle humor, multidimensional characters, and unexpected twists.
An intricately satisfying story about love and understanding that is full of both nostalgia and surprising optimism.