Morgan’s world is rocked when she discovers that the grandfather whose passing she is grieving was not her biological grandfather; her mother’s long-estranged father is in fact alive in Brooklyn.
Angry at her mother’s deception and anxious about the distance she feels growing between her parents, the privileged 16-year-old becomes obsessed with this new grandfather. She surreptitiously travels from Princeton to Brooklyn, becoming friends with Clover, an old woman who mediates this newfound relationship. Both Clover and her mother hint darkly at her grandmother’s reasons for leaving her husband, and even Morgan finds herself hesitant to trust the man. Her best friends, Ansel and Sarah, also warn her about pursuing the relationship, but Morgan persists even as she finds herself falling for Ansel—who seems ready to reciprocate. McGuigan tries to pack a lot into this slim novel: class consciousness, a child’s passage into adulthood, the complexities of relationships, and the difficulty of leaving past misdeeds behind. It stutters and stops, shifting modes abruptly and never fully cohering. The temporal setting is frustratingly indistinct. Though Morgan carries a cellphone, she and her friends never text one another, and they seem quaintly dependent on landlines; the gritty Brooklyn Morgan bravely explores is a far cry from the gentrified borough it’s become. Troublingly, a subplot about the sexual past Morgan is deeply ashamed of is never resolved or even mitigated.
An ambitious rumination that fails on several fronts. (Fiction. 12-16)