A drunk-driving accident has dire ramifications for a tight-knit family.
Rodgers’s third novel (Bald in the Land of Big Hair, 2001, etc.) is told in alternating chapters from the points of view of sisters Pia and Lily and their sister-in-law Beth. All three are self-centered and savor wallowing in grief. Despite the gut-wrenching losses they suffer, these women remain remarkably shallow and unenlightened. Pia’s husband collapses and dies in the novel’s first few pages. She remarries out of desperation and proceeds to have a nervous breakdown that’s recounted in clichéd metaphors. Lily rivals her sister when it comes to doling out self-pity. Serving out a seven-year prison sentence for killing her five-year-old niece in a drunken driving accident, she is bitter, foul-mouthed and reckless. Although Lily wrestles with the shame of her conviction, she is never repentant, and, aside from a few humorously caustic jabs at her prison mates, remains fairly intolerable. Finally, there is Beth, the dependable, sanctimonious, holy-roller of the family. Beth lost her daughter in the car accident and is harboring some severe hatred toward her in-laws. Her pent-up righteousness is dull.
It’s a slog following these three women through so many pages of depressing action before the slightest bit of sunshine is revealed in an ending that’s neither satisfying nor shocking.