Nearly 60 years ago, little Fagan Sheehan was sent back to Ireland, away from her sisters, father and stepmother. Whatever happened to Fagan?
MacDonnell (A Year of Favor, 1994) returns with her sophomore novel, following Mimi Malloy, a 68-year-old woman recently pushed into retirement. She was also pushed into divorce 15 years ago, when Jack, her husband of 30 years, eloped with his bookkeeper. Mimi would be happy to smoke, drink and dance to Frank Sinatra songs in the privacy of her own apartment, perhaps in the company of her rather handsome building superintendent, Dick Duffy. Her eldest daughter, Cassandra, would prefer to move her to an assisted living facility. Mimi actually has six daughters, most of whom avoid her. Although Cassie calls every morning promptly at 8 a.m., Celestine and Ruth Anne rarely call, Siobhan and Delilah have been scarce ever since they helped Jack hide assets during the divorce, and Malvina has moved far away to the Bronx, never calling or visiting. But now Mimi’s grandnephew needs her help to make a genealogical chart. The third of seven daughters—the Glorious Sheehan Sisters—Mimi has little desire to recall growing up impoverished, and her MRI shows ominous black spots on her brain. Worse, her sisters remember events rather differently. After Mimi finds her mother’s blue pendant hidden away in her closet, she begins to recall not only her beloved mother, who died in childbirth, but also her stepmother, the glamorous yet sinister Flanna Flanagan. Yet the memories of her sister Fagan, just 5 years old when their mother died, remain flitting shadows. The key to the past may well lie with Siobhan, a scholar of Irish folklore.
A mostly charming story of feisty women reconnecting and healing old wounds, but this has a few uncomfortably disturbing secrets at its core.