Three sisters battle one another for social and economic supremacy in Patrick’s debut novel.
The luxurious hillside city of Prospect Park, Calif., is known for its old money, glamorous parties and esteemed residents. In 1916, however, the eyes of America are on Ermel Sue Railer, a 16-year-old girl from the city’s most impoverished neighborhood, Yucatan Downs, better known as “Yucky D.” When Ermel gives birth to Abigail, Judith and Dorthea—the first identical triplets ever born in the United States—the national media floods into the neighborhood, and the reports catch the eye of Prospect Park’s lauded Duchess of Sarlione. The duchess goes to Yucky D to visit the babies; she becomes so enamored with them that she strikes a deal with Ermel’s husband, Jeb, to purchase the girls for herself. Although Ermel initially resists, she signs away her rights to Abigail and Judith but keeps Dorthea at the last moment, foiling Jeb’s arrangement and forfeiting the money. As the poor Dorthea grows up, the only thing she inherits from Ermel is her contentious nature. Patrick effectively uses his fiery characters to explore class mobility, whether morality and wealth can coexist, and the lengths to which people will go to spite others. “Look around, every minute of the day, every day of the year, and you’ll see the world is full of nothin’ but givers and takers,” Jeb later tells 12-year-old Dorthea. As she stares night after night at the exquisite mansions that top Prospect Park’s hill, she decides that nothing will keep her from attaining the same prestige and power as her sisters. Dorthea’s quest for power begins as petty sibling jealousy but quickly escalates into calculated sabotage, blackmail, manipulation and worse. Most of the characters’ redeeming qualities are so negligible that even when their compassion is meant to be genuine, it often feels contrived. The various mysteries that arise throughout the story are initially intriguing, but readers may find that they lack the desired shocks when finally revealed.
An engagingly twisted family saga that begins with a unique premise but later relies on familiar thriller tropes.