A first novel fulsomely charting the lives of two sisters, smart women who do dumb things until the obligatory life-transforming event makes them wise and contented.
Hall’s protagonists, unfortunately, are so self-centered and obtuse that they evoke irritation rather than sympathy—their respective plights, consequently, seeming less the unfair workings of fate than something well deserved. In her 40s, elder sister Maud, an actress, has been living in L.A. with her lover and trying to succeed in Hollywood. She also desperately wants a baby, but feeling she’s getting nowhere, heads to Marengo, New Mexico, where sister Lizzie lives. Lizzie, who has three children by three different men, is an artist who teaches at a local college and also illustrates greeting cards. She’s opted for single motherhood but might have changed her mind if Jake, the father of Theo, her youngest, hadn’t fled town once he heard she was pregnant. Maud finds work singing in a nightclub, and the two sisters, always jealous of each other, settle into an edgy relationship. Jake, a songwriter and computer expert, is also back in town and wants to make amends, but Lizzie isn’t ready yet to forgive him for his desertion. While she tries to find herself, Maud sleeps with a Native American activist, then with Rich, the young cowboy boyfriend of Jeep (Liz’s babysitter), then gets a starring role in the local drama production. Meanwhile, she’s also drawn to Jake, who’s similarly tempted. Jeep’s attempted suicide after finding she’s pregnant, and the death of Sam, an old lover and tenant of Lizzie’s, seem tossed in to add drama to a sagging narrative. Family ties will win out, while other affirming connections and insights will enable Maud and Lizzie finally to act smart before it’s too late.
Languid plot, self-conscious writing, unappealing protagonists: in all, an uninspired first outing.