A witty debut (first of a trilogy) about a New England clan whose members come together for a reunion—and can’t quite manage to go home again.
Lily Hill has the misfortune of being kindhearted and possessed of an old-fashioned sense of hospitality. Not quite elderly, Lily is the sort of New England spinster who keeps a Kleenex up her sleeve and serves Ritz crackers with the cocktails. In the summer of 1989, she’s happy to receive a visit from her thrice-widowed brother Harvey, who comes to stay as he awaits the sale of his own house near Boston. Soon he and Lily are joined by their niece Ginger and Ginger’s daughter Betsy, who are running away from Ginger’s husband Louis. Ginger has decided (against Betsy’s advice) to become a novelist, and it seemed to her that Lily’s place would provide a quiet setting to put her thoughts in order. She obviously hadn’t counted on the arrival of her brother Alden, with his wife and four children. Alden has just lost his job on Wall Street and needs a base of operations to start a new business selling “boutique firewood.” By the time Harvey’s grandson Arthur shows up with his girlfriend Phoebe (Arthur has lost a job, too), they have to make do with the old caretaker’s apartment in the barn: the house is full and Lily has reached the point where she’s hiding the toilet paper and no longer changing the sheets. The final arrival is the strangest of all: a sociology student named Andy Happening, who’d been introduced by his thesis adviser, an old friend of Lily’s who thought the Hill family would make an excellent study in intergenerational dynamics. After a few months, however, the Hills might provide a better example of civil war.
Charming, old-fashioned, and leisurely: Reminiscent of Elizabeth Bowen or Muriel Spark, with petty strifes rendered truly as both comic (in their pettiness) and poignant (in their strife).