|The Family Santerre, first introduced by Maile Meloy in her 2003 novel, Liars and Saints, is back again, inspected and reported on from another angle. This time, in A Family Daughter, granddaughter Abby is the narrator. She is left with grandmother Yvette when she is seven, suffering in equal parts from chickenpox and boredom. Her mother, Clarissa, is off trying to remember what it was to be happy. Feckless Uncle Jamie is called upon to entertain Abby. A bond is formed between them at that time that has far-reaching consequences. |
This family is the most chaotic bunch of narcissists to come along in some time. Yvette and Teddy, matriarch and patriarch, are devout Catholics on whom some of their childrens' antics are, fortunately, lost. Jamie is another centerpiece of the novel: funny, charming, libidinous slacker that he is, he is temporarily irresistible to everyone. Abby hits a bad patch in college after the death of her father and Jamie is there to console, and sleep with her. The impact of this event (eight events, really) results in a book, maybe fiction, maybe true, that eventually has the whole family on its respective and collective ear.
Abby's Aunt Margot, exemplary wife and mother, on automatic pilot for thirty years, suddenly leaves home to find a former lover. Clarissa might be a lesbian, she isn't sure. Abby, now happily ensconced with her former T.A., Peter, is lured to Argentina by Jamie to help care for his libertine fiancee's mother's adopted child. And, that's just a peek at what's going on. Convoluted? Yes, but it all works. Meloy can write the socks off most authors. She maintains an ironic distance from her characters in prose that you absolutely cannot stop reading until you find out every last detail. The whole shebang culminates in a Christmas celebration with everyone present. Not your ordinary singing-around-the-piano event. May the Santerres continue to thrive in Meloy's imagination! --Valerie Ryan