A sound, handsomely crafted first novel which glides effortlessly through the bad dreams and oblique recognitions inside the (primarily female) golden cage of family tradition. After the death of a widowed matriarch from one of the Four Hundred families, her three daughters gather in the house. Sadie, whose baby smile holds back hysteric insecurity. Louisa, stumbling into divorce. And the eldest, ""down-to-earth"" Barbara. They've assembled to participate in ""the grab""--part of the Luskin family ""Code,"" a process by which the designated heirs divide the deceased's possessions. As the middle-age sisters--for three days and nights--move from room to room with their colored stickers, ""the grab resumes the shape of fingers moving. . . staining the furniture blue, red and yellow."" The sisters obediently ""grab,"" tormented by the distractions of a constellation of childhood memories and marital anxieties but also by the abrasive joining and parting of their three personalities as the climate cools and heats. By what are they united and torn apart--and are they dealing with a maternal absence or Presence? (The spirit of Mother narrates the final chapter.) At the heart of the matter is the Code of the Luskins: a bloodstream knowledge of ""how things were to be done decently and in order,"" the Code which directed sons to Yale, daughters to the pianoforte to comfort homecoming husbands, and a mother not to comfort a crying child. A delicate and insidiously moving work which--like the stories of Elizabeth Cullinan--can articulate the silences that move and shape the contours of a family and the lives of its members.