Identical twins Stan and Pickle McArdle live tangled lives, fulfilling expectations imposed on them in childhood by their controlling mother. Until one day, they just don’t.
After leaving a party in the wee hours (drunk—as usual), Stan McArdle and his wife, Karen, get into an accident on the George Washington Bridge after Stan swerves to avoid a young woman standing in the road. Stan and Karen are injured (there’s blood), but they help the woman into their car and sit to await the cops. Fortunately, Stan’s twin brother, Pickle, is on the force, and it’s him they call, knowing he will cover for their drunkenness yet again. The book starts with a crash then slows as the characters' personalities develop: fussy Stan, bossy Karen, insecure Pickle, and reclusive Junie, the woman from the bridge, who now lives in the basement of Stan and Karen’s brownstone. They exist, as it were, in cages where they feel comfortable. But each squeezes between the bars occasionally to interact in an out-of-character way. Pickle eventually asks a question, which unravels a well-kept secret, which springs the locks of their cages, creating a twist. Butler’s debut is character-driven, with little action and lots of dialogue in which her people maneuver and manipulate to get what they want (or think they want). The characters are exaggerated, often unlikable, and unperceptive at times. Except maybe for Pickle, who, after all, does make progress crawling out of a mold he’d allowed himself to be cast into. There’s no closure to the question "Now what?” But if she’s willing, Butler has a great opportunity to write a sequel and develop more nuanced and introspective characters.
In this study of how childhood experiences shape perception, and how deception keeps people caged, Butler shows that nothing need be set in stone.