A blue-blood Cape Cod matron takes stock of her blameless life.
Grace Alcott has always kept strictly to the beaten path. Her husband is a prig, but faithful and a good provider. He is also the only man she has ever kissed. She has devoted her life exclusively to raising his children, a life so serene that the story skips from Grace’s early 20s to her late 50s without missing a single event of importance. Then the middle-aged grandmother’s safe world begins to fall apart. Her husband loses his wealth through an ill-considered business scheme. Her alcoholic brother commits suicide after confessing to an adulterous affair with Grace’s best friend. The friend, Prissy, vanishes without explanation just as Grace is diagnosed with breast cancer. Meanwhile, her two sons are shallow, selfish creatures for whom she feels a spirited dislike. The elder is a shiftless hippie who demands to be supported by his parents so that he can tend his three children while his sluttish wife pursues her career as a healer. The younger is a realtor who sees his parents only as an impediment to his inheritance. Under these circumstances, it is no surprise that Grace keeps her cancer secret and eschews treatment. At the 11th hour, the tale draws back from this grim conclusion, but its tardy affirmation of Grace’s cardboard marriage fails to convince. Long conversations about the characters’ reawakening offer a poor substitute for actual reawakening. Veteran mystery author Geary (Regrets Only, 2004, etc.) boasts a fluid prose style, and her rendering of upper-class foibles is charming. Her neat satirical observations, however, are wasted on a baggy plot and timid resolution.
At once bleak and dishonest: repeatedly affirming traditional family life while leaving readers with the sense that slow death is preferable.