Reiss's first novel, Time Windows (1991), was a well-wrought time fantasy involving a mother thwarted of self-realization, a pattern later revisited on occupants of the same house. The theme here is similar: two sisters are still trapped by the acrimony generated by the death of the man they both loved 20 years ago. When Hanny arrives to summer in Philadelphia with her children--Tom, 15, and Beth, 16, an aspiring artist who provides the point of view--they find gentle old Grandad, who still favors his younger daughter; vitriolic Grandmother, who's sure that Hanny and her kids can do nothing right; and alcoholic Aunt Iris, who's been embittered ever since her fiancÃ‰ Clifton died in a fall during a stair-top tussle after Iris found him in bed with her teenage sister. Each sister has always believed the other pushed Clifton; Tom and Beth are united in their search for the truth. Without Time Windows' fantasy element, this plot founders on its lack of motivation. The characters are too simplistic to be believable; an extraordinary change of heart from all three older women after Grandad's transparently untrue confession (unsurprisingly, nobody pushed Clifton) is only the last unlikely straw. Meanwhile, promising themes like the role of art in various lives, or Beth's parallel infatuation with an older man, just fizzle out. Disappointing, but acceptable as popular fiction.