Four generations of strong-minded women battle each other, their individual insecurities and life’s many ups and downs in this overstuffed latest from Mapson (Goodbye, Earl, 2004, etc.).
The author gives her characters plenty of obstacles to overcome before the mostly happy ending. When we meet Mariah Moon, inching along in traffic on California’s Highway One, she’s just lost her job as assistant sociology professor at a local college. How will she pay for that fancy school attended by her brilliant 12-year-old daughter Lindsay? Waitressing at the Owl & Moon, her family’s Pacific Grove restaurant, is the short-term solution, but it means dealing with her cranky, ultra-religious grandmother, Gammy, and her maddening mother, Allegra. Mariah is mortified by Allegra still dressing and acting like a hippie chick at nearly 50, and she’s never forgiven her mother for refusing to identify the man who begot her 34 years ago. (Mariah at least told Lindsay the name of her absent father, even if the girl’s never met him.) Not to worry: When Allegra has a fainting spell that sends her to the hospital, the doctor who hands her a diagnosis of leukemia is none other than Alvin Goodnough, the Vietnam vet en route to med school with whom she shared a sleeping bag back in the Summer of Love. Will they finally get together for keeps? Can Mariah get over her eternal adolescent snit with the help of a handsome Scottish customer at the café? Will Lindsay’s science project win her a scholarship, or land her in jail? Mapson’s plotting is as over-the-top as it was in the Bad Girl Creek trilogy—Phoebe DeThomas’s daughter Sally turns up from that series to befriend Lindsay—and the twists are often blindingly obvious, poorly motivated, or both. What saves the story is the characters: broadly drawn, but utterly human, full of querulous life and irritatingly believable. The author loves the people she creates and draws in readers to share her affection.
Profound it ain’t, but immensely readable and very charming in its own messy, undisciplined way.