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Four female friends wallow through the years, make a hash of each others' lives and their own, forgive, forget, and endure in this novel by Sallis, author of two young adult novels. Liv, Carol, Myrtle, and Monica grow up during the postwar years when ""Rita Hayworth was out and Jean Simmons was in,"" in a cozy suburb of Birmingham, England. The gang's hideout is a haunted house where they tell each other their secrets--the most shocking of which turns out to be Monica's revelation that she's pregnant by her dopey adoptive brother, Gilly. Carol's war-widowed mum, Mary, takes in Monica's by-blow, Bessie (with Carol confusing the child by behaving like both a mother and sister). Meanwhile, Myrtle marries the osteopath/rouÉ Malcolm and surprises everyone with her fecundity, bearing four children, among them the heart-twisting mongoloid Mallie. Liv goes the marriage route as well, settling down with auctioneer Reggie, who develops an unlikely passion for Myrtle (it seems her stretch marks turn him on). A Yankee thaws the ice around Monica's heart, but the relationship dissolves when Monica discovers she's sterile and then decides to reclaim Bessie. And Carol, now a book publisher in France, falls in love with the dashing journalist Jean-Claude, only to die in the midst of riots stemming from political turmoil over the fate of Algeria. In the end, the three remaining friends grow closer after Carol's death, and little Bessie finally accepts that Monica's her mom. In real life these four women would most likely have stopped communicating even by Christmas card. But Sallis sugarcoats their dramas, resulting in a sweet-tempered if empty-headed novel.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Crown