Jaffe (Five Women, 1997, etc.) once again returns to her familiar (albeit formulaic) approach and offers a saga spanning five generations of American women.
The story begins and ends with the life of Rose Smith, born at the turn of the century. As it opens, ten-year-old Rose has just lost her mother and is left to the care of an older sister, a distant father, and an uncaring stepmother. Rose suffers through adolescence and young womanhood, then finally narrowly escapes spinsterhood by marrying, at age 25, a man she doesn't love. Quickly, Rose’s own family begins to grow and develop, and to her credit, Jaffe has nicely mirrored the significant changes in America that happen simultaneously: women’s liberation, world wars, technological and medical breakthroughs, and the sexual revolution are all witnessed through the eyes of Jaffe’s people. But though Jaffe liberally sprinkles historical tidbits throughout the text, most are glossed over too quickly to provide any significant weight to the narrative. The author’s true strength is the manner in which she acknowledges and brings to life the societal pressures that have been placed on women—pressures that have influenced their personal decisions on issues concerning marriage, divorce, and abortion over the last 100 years. When her characters do come to life, it is because of the sense of internal struggle that Jaffe is so adept at developing. Her frantic pace, however, keeps the action moving so quickly that most of them feel one-dimensional, and plotlines twist and turn a little too rapidly to afford them the opportunity to resonate.
For Jaffe fans, this epic tale may well satisfy; others are likely to find it more cloying than not.