A comic examination of a large Irish family’s struggle to maintain their old-fashioned religious and cultural traditions in modern-day California.
With her lingering stutter and utter lack of fashion sense, everyone expects 28-year-old Agnes Anne O’Neil to remain under her parents’ roof forever. But she has other plans: after years of inertia, she’s decided to obtain her real estate license so that she can get out of the back office at her father’s real estate firm. She decides to apply her increased earnings toward getting cosmetic surgery on her nose and chin. She also declares that, going forward, she’d prefer to be called “Anne.” In short order, the formerly timid Anne bleaches her hair blonde, makes two successful real estate sales, and meets a new guy. Meanwhile, her parents grow apoplectic because she’s no longer the rigid Irish Catholic isolationist that they thought she was. They call her cosmetic surgery self-mutilation, and they can’t stand that she has a Jewish boyfriend, Sheldon Goldberg; they also lament that Anne isn’t cultivating a life more like her sister Katie’s. Unbeknownst to them, however, Katie’s husband, Bruno, has been harassing Anne with sexual come-ons and innuendos. As Anne attempts to resist his advances, he begins devising schemes to make her life very, very difficult. In this debut novel, Hartmann takes what appears at first to be a romantic comedy and turns it, unexpectedly, into a thriller. As a result, there are many slapstick and laugh-out-loud funny moments throughout the tale, such as an elaborate prank in a church, but there’s also a darker undercurrent—a constant dread that Anne’s misgivings about Bruno might actually be right on the money. Still, the novel is filled with hilarious misunderstandings and moments of family strife, including a disastrous dinner in which Sheldon first meets Anne’s family. Overall, this fast-paced, plot-heavy tale is as riveting as it is cheeky.
A witty, sensitive story that will satisfy discerning fans of family dramas.