Old money, environmental activism and large waterfowl collide in the suburbs of Boston.
Wild geese have descended on Eden Rock Country Club, and they’ve excited a discordant array of reactions. The club manager wants them gone, dead or alive. The club chef wants them fat and juicy in time for a big awards banquet. The groundskeeper wants to protect them from poisonous herbicides; he’s adopted a gosling for a pet. And one of the club’s members has descended into an existential funk after accidentally killing one of the birds with a golf ball. Meanwhile, the Eden Rock social scene is just recovering from a broken engagement between two young members, Nina Rundlett and Eliot Farnsworth. Their breakup was engineered by Arietta Wingate, keeper of “the book”: a record of the club’s sexual history, secretly maintained since Eden Rock’s inception and passed down through the generations from one club matriarch to her carefully chosen apprentice. Arietta knows who the real fathers are, and it’s her job to prevent intra-club marriages between partners unaware of their consanguinity. These two plotlines make very odd bedfellows. The plague of geese could have triggered a slapstick romp or a sharp satire. It could have been a black comedy of manners. But it’s neither, and lacks both fizz and bite. Nor does Hart create some other satisfying whole from these disparate pieces. The large cast of characters adds diversity without adding interest. Hart narrates in the third person, but she allows individual voices to color each chapter’s tone, a technique that would have been more successful if her characters weren’t uniformly one-dimensional. Club manager Gerard has no existence beyond Eden Rock; chef Vita thinks of nothing but foie gras and crème fraîche; activist Phoebe seldom spares a thought for anything she can’t protest. They may not be unrealistic—people can, of course, be overworked, food-obsessed and shrilly judgmental—but they certainly are boring.
An unfocused, underdeveloped, unexciting debut.