Squabbling family copes with death and disillusionment.
Informed by their aged but sprightly mother Clattie that their father has been felled by a heart attack, Jack Palmer’s grown children begin to whine—in a quiet, tight-lipped, veddy British sort of way. The complaining never lets up even after Clattie reveals a shocking family skeleton: early in their marriage, a woman Jack loved before he met Clattie gave birth to his child, whom he acknowledged and supported while keeping the secret from his subsequent children. Ralph, arrogant eldest of the legitimate Palmers, is aghast to find that he has a half-brother who had the temerity to precede him in the all-important birth order. Hugh, now a successful chef but definitely in touch with his inner middle child, is still struggling with issues of self-worth. He remembers only too well eying the dish of roast potatoes as a young boy, desperately willing there to be enough for him to have a second helping: What if this surprising new brother competes with him for the emotional potatoes? Will Pippa, their born-again younger sister, greet the prodigal with open arms and Christian love, or will she too raise hitherto unexplored issues of trust? Titus is nonplussed by all the ado, though a bit sad for his old dad. He’s a practical sort, an upholsterer and furniture restorer with a down-to-earth Australian wife and a punky teenaged daughter named Summer. “What sort of name is that?” Ralph spits. “They’re all so . . . so unlike us.” But mere aversion to antipodean accents can’t stop these mismatched siblings from opening a restaurant together and fulfilling Hugh’s lifelong dream (see above: enough potatoes). Titus designs the décor, sundry spouses and kids help out, and Clattie comes into her own at last. Everyone comes to terms with everything sooner or later, and please pass the salt, etc.
Very familiar fare—in a second from the British author of Hoping for Hope (2001).