In Close's wry, patchy first novel, a dictatorial father binds his family together yet, paradoxically, drives it apart. Luckily for Al, his three older sisters, his mother, and his bedridden grandma (""Goopie""), father Philip is away on business most of the time: when's he's home, he governs everything. Each character's subsequent life is shaped by responding to this control, whether through open defiance or silent submission. When Al's ambition to be a chef is brushed aside, he angrily leaves home and takes a menial job in the name of independence. When the scattered family reunites for Goopie's funeral, Al realizes that they are all--even Philip--strong in some ways, weak in others. Since Al's first-person, present-tense narration covers his entire adolescence, the plot here is episodic. Al's motives and personality are simpler and less distinct than his sisters', but his observations are keenly analytical, and his understanding of others deepens realistically over time. A convincing portrait of an unhappy family tied together by complex webs of rivalry, disappointment, loyalty, and support.