A Jewish family struggles with the politics of desire during the tumultuous Reagan ’80s.
Gilmore follows up her well-crafted debut (Golden Country, 2006) with the tale of a Jewish family, the Goldsteins, attempting to live up to those who have come before them. The most esoteric character is the mother, Sharon, who is at an emotional crossroads after settling down and having children instead of embracing the spirit of the ’60s. She looks for solace in the bed of a banker-turned-activist after descending into a cultish support group. “If she could, she’d return to the time when she and Dennis were first married, when the Jews and the blacks sat together, before Selma, before Kennedy was shot, before Vietnam,” Gilmore writes. Her husband Dennis is a midlevel Washington bureaucrat whose extended trips to Moscow are derailed by the Iranian hostage crisis. Their son Ben becomes embroiled in the heady politics that inflame college students as he starts his first year at Brandeis University. Their daughter Vanessa, meanwhile, throws herself headlong into anarchist passions when she discovers the burgeoning D.C. punk-rock scene and her blooming sexuality. Each member of the clan compares their own lives to that of the parents of Sharon and Dennis, first-generation immigrants whose experiences with communism and memories of the Rosenberg trials color all the other plots. As in her debut, Gilmore does an admirable job of weaving real-life history into the lives of her characters. But even as resolutions are made and secrets are revealed, the parts often threaten to swallow the whole.
A very adult, mildly flawed domestic drama.