This incisive story of family dysfunction comes with an incredibly unique narrator: a test tube baby born nineteen years (almost a generation) after her three siblings, and who ultimately steps up to bring the family out of their emotional paralysis.
The Oppenheimer triplets, Harrison, Lewyn and Sally, who are among the first of American babies conceived in a test tube and birthed by a surrogate, hate each other as soon as their cognizant enough to do so. Their wealthy Jewish NYC parents live in a great house in Brooklyn and summer on Martha’s Vineyard. Their distant dad Salo spends all his time in running his family’s investment firm as well as secretly, obsessively collecting art. His wife Joanna tends to family logistics but has little emotional connection to any of the children or her husband. She’s all about family closeness, with little insight to just how distant each relationship proves.
Embodying a historical sweep of the development of NYC since the 70’s, the novel has a very Gilded Age wide and satirical scope on a wealthy upper tier of society at the time. Each Oppenheimer triplet engages in intense searching to figure out his or her path in life and does so amidst hostile sibling rivalry and intense independence. Harrison rebels against his politically current private high school to seek out a men-only, deeply conservative alternative to college in the woods studying the great works. Sally and Lewyn both at Cornell, refuse to acknowledge each other’s presence, which creates relationship drama as their both attracted to the same person.
And then finally along comes Phoebe, waiting in frozen stasis. Joanna decides to have her born via a surrogate as a sad, useless attempt to save her marriage. Phoebe as she comes into adulthood, is refreshingly emotional honest and passionate about getting to know each of her elusive siblings who have completely ignored her during her childhood. In learning to appreciate each, she heals family wounds and weaves the close-knit family relationships that heal the family rifts.
An ingenious social satire that catches you up in the intensity of family dysfunction and the miracle of reconciliation, and a great book club pick!
Thanks to Caledon for a review copy.