A first novel, set in Butte, Montana, about the love-hate relationship between two sisters, one overly responsible, the other wildly irresponsible.
Having just graduated from high school, narrator Erin lives quietly with her widowed mother, an obstetrics nurse, and works at a local vintage-clothing store whose owners (a politically correct gay couple) encourage her in her jewelry-making. Then Erin’s sister Meghan calls home in the middle of a freak July snowstorm. Or, rather, Meghan’s preschool daughter, Teeny, calls from the Pair-a-Dice Motel, where Meghan, Teeny, and baby Si-si are holed up. Since their alcoholic father died when Erin was 13, Meghan, the gifted, ambitious older sister Erin looked up to, has been on a downward spiral of sex, drugs, and Erin is afraid to think what else. Erin and her mother rescue the kids from the rattrap motel and Meghan soon follows. She takes a job at a local bakery and joins AA, Teeny and Si-si begin to thrive, and Erin wants to believe but can’t quite bring herself to trust that Meghan is back on track. In particular, she wonders about the frequent late-night hang-up calls the family’s begun receiving. In one incident after another, Erin and Meghan spar emotionally as they slowly heal old wounds. In an unnecessary subplot, Erin meets an attractive newcomer (no one seems to question an 18-year-old sleeping with a 28-year-old in this fictional world, but then Erin reads like 18 going on 48). Just as Erin is on the verge of renewed faith in Meghan, bad guys from Meghan’s past show up and start shooting. Thirty pages before it ends, the novel switches from a slow accumulation of details in minor key to a pile-up of plot and sudden revelation.
Barbieri handles the complex sibling relationship with finesse, but weakens the effect with contrivance and predictability.