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Cincinnati columnist Sims debuts with the ordeal of a young woman who returns to her childhood home to put her family ghosts to rest.

Thirty-year-old Lucy Greene still has a lot of unfinished business when it comes to her family. A photography curator at a midwestern museum, she is too busy with her own life—finishing her master’s thesis, planning exhibitions, etc.—to find much time to ruminate on the past. But when she is called down to Florida to nurse her 58-year-old mother, Fay, through the last stages of lung cancer, Lucy finds that she has to make her reckonings pretty fast. Apart from the obvious shock of her mother’s disease, there is the inexplicable behavior of Lucy’s older sister Anna, who had been alerted to her mother’s condition months earlier (when treatment might still have made a difference) but did absolutely nothing. Always flighty as a child, Anna has grown up to become a full-fledged drunk (now going though rehab for the umpteenth time), but Lucy is not in the forgiving mood and considers her a selfish egomaniac. The greatest shock of all, though, comes when Fay tells Lucy that she is still in touch with their Frank, who disappeared when Lucy was six. A printer’s mechanic, Frank was struck by lightning at the Greenes’ lakeside summerhouse in Canada and became a kind of hapless lunatic as a result. Now Lucy learns that he’s been living in Florida with her aunt Martha ever since. So it seems like a tradeoff, of sorts: Lucy goes to Florida to lose her mother, but she finds her father in the process.

A standard belated-coming-of-ager, but nicely worked out and genuinely affecting—even if too long and sometimes plodding.

Pub Date: March 29th, 2004
ISBN: 0-670-03290-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2004