Knopf. Mar. 2023. 416p. ISBN 9780593319277. $30. F
Spanning the 1970s and the 1980s, Simpson’s (Casebook) novel weaves a beautiful tapestry of the lives of survivors who keep going even in the face of impossible odds. Abandoned by their father after their parents’ divorce, siblings Walter, Lina, and Donnie Aziz live with their mother Diane in a small bungalow in LA. Diane is exceptionally proud of Walter when he heads off to college, but after he departs she falls into a deep depression, leaving Lina and Donnie adrift. Diane’s friend and coworker Julie arranges for a medical leave for Diane. When the leave is exhausted and she is no better, Diane is institutionalized. From there, Diane’s children take different paths in life. For Walter, it is one of safety, money, and security; for Lina, one of education and art; for Donnie, one of addiction, rehabilitation, and redemption. The title of Simpson’s novel has a dual meaning, referring both to Diane’s commitment to the institution and the siblings’ commitment to each other, to Julie, and to their mother.
VERDICT Echoes of Middlemarch can be felt in Simpson’s haunting, melancholic novel. Readers of all kinds will relish this gem of a family saga.
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