Rural America cross-fertilizes with Bohemia in a story of tangled family ties.
Skillful tale-spinner Maynard (Labor Day, 2009, etc.) turns heavier-handed in her latest, the chronicle of Ruth Plank and Dana Dickerson, born two hours apart in the same hospital in New Hampshire in 1950, whose surnames spell out their families’ characters and styles. The Planks, who have farmed their acres for generations, are as solid and dependable as a wooden floor. George and Val Dickerson, on the other hand, are drifters, forever drained and dislocated by George’s get-rich-quick schemes. Dreamily creative Ruth can’t understand why her mother seems to love her less than her sisters, nor can she quite comprehend the curious friendship between her kindly father and artistic Val Dickerson, whom Ruth also resembles physically. Dana, meanwhile, has always attracted Ruth’s mother’s attention and has an inexplicable flair for farming. Maynard’s neat, credulity-stretching story hints often enough at the possible explanation for her twin cuckoos in the nests, although doesn’t spell it out even when Ruth’s attraction to Dana’s brother Ray and subsequent pregnancy force her parents to intervene. Only as the members of the older generation die do the birthday sisters, whose checkered love lives have run their courses, finally embrace the truth.
Simple, sentimental and symmetrical, this is a limited narrative stretched out over novel length.