In the latest from Miller (The World Below, 2001, etc.), a family member’s death alters the established patterns and rhythms among those who survive.
Eva’s second husband, John, is killed by a car while on a walk with Eva and their three-year-old son, Theo. Eva, who runs a bookstore in California wine country, is understandably devastated. Temporarily unable to cope, she sends Theo and his half-sisters, popular high-school senior Emily and gawky 14-year-old Daisy, to their father, her ex-husband Mark, a winegrower. Mark and Eva’s marriage, full of early passion, had ended when Mark, in a misguided attempt at intimacy, confessed an affair. Eva’s marriage to the older, truly nice John had been calmer, but their love was genuine and deep. The children return to Eva’s house after a few days, but as the months pass, Mark finds himself wooing Eva through the kids, including Theo, for whom he forms quite a lovely attachment. Miller tips the story’s balance by flashing forward occasionally to the adult Daisy’s conversations with her therapist. While her parents flirt and skirt around each other and Emily goes off to college, Daisy, who has always lived in Emily’s shadow, is full of unexpressed depths of grief because John had been the one parent figure she felt really saw her for herself. When Duncan, the physically and emotionally damaged husband of Eva’s best friend, catches her pilfering from the cash register at Eva’s store, he insinuates himself into Daisy’s life. Unaware of her own emerging beauty, Daisy is extremely needy and vulnerable—and extremely angry. A twisted sexual relationship begins. Eva is too wrapped up in her own struggles to notice, but Mark, whom Eva has rebuffed as suitor, steps in and rescues Daisy, who is one tough cookie. The family reshapes itself.
Miller at her best: engrossing characters and a plot that turns unexpected corners.