Dysfunctional Family Restored

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A rock in the road flips a Jeep Cherokee, killing two passengers.

A doctor performing in vitro fertilization chooses three of four embryos and triplets are born.

A man boards a plane that crashes into the World Trade Center.

Lives are changed because of chance meetings, or through unexpected encounters that speak to them at the deepest level.

But chance is not the only thing that determines lives. Deliberate choices are made.

A young woman determines to save a man consumed by guilt and to build a close and loving family.

The triplet’s need to be rid of each other tears apart the family.

And nineteen years later, the fourth embryo is taken from the deep freeze, and is born, and grows up and endeavors to mend what has been broken.

The Latercomer arrives late in the story, after we read about Salo Oppenheimer’s accident and his marriage to Johanna; after we watch Harrison, Lewyn, and Sally grow up and make their mistakes and find what they love. It is Phoebe who unravels the family’s twisted history and she tells us the story.

These complex, amazing characters are deeply portrayed. Salo, unable to love anything but the abstract art he collects, only finding love late in his life. The delusional Johanna, whose determination to create the perfect family blinds her to the truth. The intellectual, sarcastic and driven Harrison, conned into radical politics. The gentle, ambivalent Lewyn, who finds a love of art and for Rochelle, who he can’t be honest with, and who is drawn to the certainties of a cultish religion. Sally, who early learns her father’s secret, and as Rochelle’s roommate, dissembles her truth, and who finds satisfaction rummaging through chaotic houses as an antiques ‘picker’.

From the first accident, this family is haunted by an inability to connect and love each other. To fill the gap, they turn to art or antiques or religion. Or affairs, or to family traditions that ape closeness.

The novel is rich in humor and psychological insight and political commentary. Harrison’s friend and political guide Eli Absalom Stone is a brilliant character.

It’s a slow burn of a book and I loved every page. These characters will be with me for a long while.

I received an ARC through BookishFirst in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.