The visiting, normal daughter"" of a family--her only designation here--comes home to her old parents living in the Napa Valley of California. . . after not having seen them for twelve years. The parents are Italian Jews, forced to flee by Mussolini; the father, once a doctor in Italy, is now a retired undertaker; the mother once designed clothes in Europe, but, having borne twin girls (the ""normal"" one and Laura, a hunchback), she has lived ever since with maternal guilt, professional frustration, hatred for the philandering husband, and occasional nervous collapse. This marriage is a fiercely horrible one, then, intensely recollected--but even more concentrated are the sheer layers of secret here. The daughter sits at Christmas dinner, for instance, thinking of all the men site knew carnally as a teenager--men who came to gaze at (and grow excited by) the crippled Laura, discharging their lust later on the less striking, less exotic sister. And, as an adult, the daughter now shares a homosexual relationship with a French gynecologist in New York. Admittedly, the bitterness of the family speculation in this short fiction occasionally becomes fumey, imagistic: most fey is a historical parallel, late in the novel, to the Cathar movement in medieval France, of which the visiting daughter and her doctor-lover are suggested throwbacks. But though, as with most of Molinaro's fiction, there's too much intellectualization here, she effectively tells her story as a building series of interior pressures--and this is artful, packed work, working better perhaps as a long story than as a novel.