In a comedy of errors from second-novelist McPhee (The Center of Things, 2001), two sisters set out to dig up a family secret and find that they’ve struck a mother lode of them.
Lillian and Veronica Moore, although both fully grown and quite independent young women, enjoy a strongly familial relationship of the sort that sisters more typically have in their teens than their 30s. A good thing, too, since each is about the only thing the other has by way of family. Their father Charles died in a car accident 25 years ago (Veronica was with him but survived), and their mother Agnes moved to New Zealand more than a dozen years back and isn’t often in touch. Lillian, a neurologist, has given up on marriage and recently duped an unemployed actor into getting her pregnant during a one-night stand. Veronica, who writes for a TV soap opera and knows all about such plot twists, understands her sister’s frustration but still thinks this was kind of low. Together, the two hire a private detective to straighten out the mystery of their late father: where he’s buried (Agnes refused to tell them), where he was going at the time of the accident, and what he did for a living (another secret Mother won’t tell). The detective is frank: He’ll probably never find anything, and if he does it will most likely be something horrible or scandalous. But Lillian and Veronica can deal with scandal. For one thing, the hapless chump who impregnated Lillian (without knowing it) landed a part in Veronica’s show and the two (the chump and Veronica, not the chump and Lillian) have started dating. For another, Veronica and Lillian may not be sisters. And their father may not have been their father. Is this some sort of postmodern whodunit? Not exactly—more like an old-fashioned farce.
So absurdly improbable that it can be swallowed whole: a witty spoof, nicely put together and hard to put down.