Taylor (Rules for Saying Goodbye, 2007) evokes the rich textures and rhythms of California’s Central Valley in this lush novel of inheritance, family, and betrayal.
Ingrid, who believes “all existential problems are solved when you’re driving somewhere,” narrates her return to her family’s 20,000-acre farm in Fresno after her latest breakup. She’s spent the decade since college in New York, London, and Los Angeles in a series of failed relationships and needs somewhere to begin again. Her father, Ned, who inherited his first hundred acres, has spent a lifetime buying and cultivating the best soil. Now he presides over Palamede Farms with “something beyond affection for the grapes…something much closer to love.” But “no farmer ever wants another to do well,” and love may not be enough to keep the farm going. Ned’s daughters, Ingrid and her sister, Annie, a Los Angeles voice-over actress, help each other through heartaches while also discovering what very different adults they are. The sisters share a complicated relationship with their fiercely protective mother, who is hostile to almost everyone outside their family. One of the few outsiders she trusts is her husband’s best friend, Felix, a successful vineyard owner who also makes wine by buying grapes from other farmers. When Ned’s long-standing cough worsens, Ingrid settles in to help run the farm, tangling with Felix to make good on his promise to buy Palamede’s harvest. The picking season’s vivid drama is rendered through descriptions of the changing grapes as Ingrid waits for Felix to pick them before they lose their value; one day, they are “plummy and tart, but too taut yet.” Meanwhile, Ingrid reunites with her estranged best friend, Bootsie, and George Sweet, the man many thought she would marry if her mother had approved.
A profound novel about forces that can nurture or break the strongest connections.