Fortunes and hearts are lost and found in a modern fairy tale set in the 1960s and '70s.
Ausubel’s (A Guide to Being Born, 2013, etc.) trademark combination of realist narrative with fabulist elements shines in this novel that includes everything from Vietnam War casualties and a West Virginia mine disaster to a road trip with a giant, an escape by sailboat, and children on their own in a wood. It begins on Labor Day weekend, 1976, at the summer house of Fern and Edgar Keating and their three children. Fern receives a call from her family lawyer that not a penny is left of the fortune she was to inherit from her recently deceased parents. And while Edgar could “go back and take over the family steel company in Chicago…[i]t was the very last thing he wanted to do. He would not be able to publish the novel he had spent ten years writing because it was about the son of a steel baron who walks away from his father’s money.” This is a first-world problem to be sure, but it rocks the Keatings’ world. Edgar wanders off to a pot party and gets way too involved with a louche woman in white bell-bottoms named Glory. Meanwhile, Fern is inveigled into playing the bride in a fake wedding put on to entertain Alzheimer’s patients in a nursing home, then takes off for California with her groom, who is literally a giant. Both Fern and Edgar leave town thinking the other is still at home—but in fact, their kids are all alone, with only fourth-grader Cricket to take care of her kindergarten-age twin brothers. Interwoven with this '70s story are sections set in 1965, filling in marvelous detail about Fern's and Edgar’s parents, the early days of their love, and the fate of Fern’s own adored twin.
Ausubel’s magical, engrossing prose style perfectly fits this magical, engrossing story.