Weiner follows her sharp, funny debut (Good in Bed, 2001) with a look at the sometimes-chafing bonds of sisterhood.
Ella Hirsch volunteers. Meals-on-Wheels, the local thrift store, books for the blind, even a weekly column for the Golden Acres Gazette, a weekly published by and for residents of her “retirement community for active seniors.” But all the pet shelters in the world can’t distract her from the pain of losing her daughter Caroline 20 years ago. Still worse, Caroline’s husband, Michael Feller, refuses Ella all contact with her granddaughters, telling the girls that grandma’s been “in a home” they can’t visit. Instead, Rose and Maggie are raised by Michael’s second wife, Sydelle the Stepmonster, who feeds pudgy Rose sugar-free Jello for dessert while the rest of the family has ice cream (reminding her that “when My Marcia got married, she bought a size six Vera Wang—and had it taken in”) and who tells dyslexic Maggie, “We’ll get you a tutor,” but instead lets her get shunted into special ed, where incompetent teachers hand out endless worksheets while Maggie does her nails. No wonder that Rose goes to Princeton and eventually lands a job with Philadelphia law firm Lewis, Dommel, and Fenick but remains “a grown-up bookworm with a decent wardrobe,” while glamorous Maggie works a series of dead-end jobs, always dreaming she’s about to break into show business. What she breaks instead is Rose’s heart—camping out in her living room when she’s evicted from her apartment, running up Rose’s credit cards, wearing her shoes, and stealing everything she needs most—all the while relying on Rose’s sturdy sense of responsibility to shield her from the consequences.
Owing as much to Sula as to Susan Isaacs, Weiner’s follow-up lacks some of the bite of her first novel, but still tells a poignant tale of two damaged girls who need to find themselves so that they can find each other.