Rice’s latest (Dance With Me, 2004, etc.) focuses on a family with major communication problems.
John Sullivan is a talented Irish-American sculptor who finds inspiration in extreme climates. His grandest installation yet, a huge sculpture made of tree trunks, stands on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea in a remote part of Ireland. Soon after wife Honor and their three daughters come to see the completed project, John’s hot temper and extreme nature land him in deep trouble. He’s implicated in the mysterious death of a jealous local, found on a ledge beneath the cliffs with John’s oldest daughter Regis standing by the body. Refusing to defend himself in court and drag Regis further into the case, John gets a sentence of six years in an Irish prison. The way his wife Honor sees it, he abandoned their family out of sheer stubbornness. Just a few months before Regis’s wedding, John returns home to Connecticut from prison. Can he repair the damage that his absence has done? Honor is pondering divorce, and their daughters are basket cases. With a little help from his sister (a nun), John rekindles his romance with Honor. Their flaky offspring are the ones who really need guidance and attention. Regis is marrying for all the wrong reasons. Middle daughter Agnes has delusional tendencies, and when she incurs a suspicious head injury, her family wonders if she is suicidal. The Sullivans must come to terms with what actually happened six years ago in Ireland, or the family will be destroyed. Readers looking for Rice’s standard mix of enduring love and family drama won’t be disappointed. However, they certainly won’t find anything new in this Celtic drama rife with predictable sins and one-dimensional people. (Not every character need be beautiful and brimming with passion.) The only love affair that rings true is the author’s fawning adoration of Ireland.
Overwrought and flimsy—but at least the coastal scenery is lovely.