From Publishers Weekly
In Niederhoffer's arch, alliterative debut, Bell, Bridget, Beth, Belinda, Beryl and Benita Barnacle, ranging in age from 10 to 29, plunge headlong into the competition their father, Barry Barnacle (né Baranski), dictates at the family's annual Passover seder on the Upper East Side. "Whoever can figure out a way to immortalize the Barnacle name will be named the sole beneficiary of my estate," declares the patriarch, who made his fortune as New York's "Pantyhose Prince," formed a worldview according to social Darwinism, but produced no male heirs. Twenty-nine-year-old Bell may lock down the contest by announcing her pregnancy. But 10-year-old Benita, daddy's little girl, sets out to immortalize her family name through infamy, not progeny. Rebellious 16-year-old Belinda, who shares "her sisters' wildness but none of their savvy," pursues a questionable liaison with a pierced, acne-prone suitor, while Beryl, an artistic 13-year-old, apparently doesn't deign to compete. The real game, though, is between Bell and 26-year-old Bridget (the prettiest and most extroverted sister) who angle for the affections of their handsome neighbors, identical twins Billy and Blaine Finch. This zany 1930s-style romantic comedy, titled after Darwin's monograph on the arthropods he studied before finches, makes for a lighthearted literary lark.
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*Starred Review* Charles Darwin studied barnacles before he used the Galapagos finch to illustrate his theory of evolution, a fact first-time novelist Niederhoffer parlays into a delightfully clever and romantic screwball comedy. Her Barnacles are an eccentric and well-off Manhattan family ensconced in an enormous apartment facing Central Park and bursting with natural--history collections. It's a hectic household, what with Barry, the droll and manipulative patriarch; his loopy ex-wife, Bella, who lives upstairs with Latrell, her adopted African American son; Bunny, Barry's current wife; and six headstrong daughters, all with names beginning with B. The Finches live next door, and romantic confusion ensues between the at-loose-ends twentysomething identical Finch twins, Billy and Blaine, and the two oldest Barnacle sisters, Bridget and Bell, who are similarly adrift, antics that elicit much ire from the quirky younger Barnacles. Then, as if life in his daffy kingdom wasn't contentious enough, Barry initiates a contest that throws his competitive if dysfunctional daughters into a frenzy. A filmmaker before she became a novelist, Niederhoffer pays sparkling homage to fairy tales, King Lear,
Austen, and Nora Ephron in this charming and sly spoofing of the concept of the survival of the fittest, and the nature-versus-nurture debate. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved