Bear Wells, a Church of Christ minister, and Baby Bear, the family’s 180-pound Newfoundland puppy, must cope with teenage daughters.
Sugar Land, Texas is a nice community to grow up in unless your divorced mother dies from esophageal cancer and you’re forced to move there and live with your dad, his twin sons, and Liz, the stepmother from hell, who suggests suicide as a nice lifestyle change. Teenager Phoebe Pickersley’s solution is to dress goth, pierce herself from brow to lip and insinuate herself into the more idyllic Wells household, where she monopolizes 15-year-old Jo Wells’ mom’s time, manipulates Jo into doing what she wants, flirts with Jo’s boyfriend, Alex, and finally so aggravates Jo that she ends the relationship. One day, Jo returns home and finds Phoebe dead in her bedroom. The fact that his daughter is suspected of supplying Phoebe with drugs sends Bear into a tailspin. He insists that Jo couldn’t have done this since he knows everything about her. But he doesn’t know a thing about that tattoo on her neck, her leaving the house by her bedroom window or her skipping ballet classes to take lessons in Catholicism. While Bear twists slowly in the wind, Liz, on a romantic picnic with her husband, dies from anaphylactic shock from ingesting tuna. Phoebe’s alcoholic grandfather sobers up long enough to redeem an insurance policy on his granddaughter. At length, Jo gets down to sleuthing and Bear to taking long walks along the levee with Baby Bear and his secretary’s curly tailed pugs as he tries to puzzle out life.
As charming and wry as Evans’ bright debut (Faithful Unto Death, 2012), filled with reasons to own dogs, love your children and your wife, and have faith.