A 40th high-school reunion reawakens old insecurities and crushes among former geeks, jocks, wallflowers and beauty queens.
In the small Ohio town of Clear Springs, the high-school class of 1960-something is about to relapse into old roles. Three of the alums still live in Clear Springs. Lester, science nerd, is now a veterinarian. Mary Alice, a four-eyed ugly duckling who never married, is caring for her 92-year-old neighbor Einer. Divorcée Dorothy, who hovered on the fringes of popularity, is crash-dieting in hopes of seducing quarterback Pete Decker, who, she hears, is separated from his wife and high-school sweetheart Nora. Blonde lead cheerleader Candy has just been diagnosed with a terminal disease, and she intends to fly to the reunion accompanied by her bulldog in lieu of husband Coop, whose micromanagement she finds exhausting. Pam, the unpopular girl still tasked, thanklessly, with organizing events, has planned the ultimate buzz-kill for the reunion dinner-dance. While trying to dump his mistress and win back Nora, Pete suffers a heart attack. He escapes from the hospital to attend the reunion dressed in ill-fitting golf togs purchased at the airport. Nora flaunts her new boyfriend, while Mary Alice is escorted by Einer, who vows to protect her from classmates who used to haze her. When Dorothy arrives flanked by girlfriends who made up her small clique, she’s dismayed to see Pete schmoozing Mary Alice. Einer shares his own high-school memories—then, they called the cool crowd “superlatives.” Candy seeks out Lester as her dinner mate, much to Mary Alice’s dismay: She had high hopes after lunch with Lester. Candy invites Lester to her hotel room, to examine the suspicious lumps she’s just discovered on her bulldog’s abdomen.
More cynical than her usual Anne Tyler–lite approach, Berg’s depiction of her characters’ mid-life follies and ongoing struggles with the specter of aging is at times hilarious, at times sad, but this time she steers clear of the maudlin to go for the jugular.