From Publishers Weekly
An unhappy family creeps toward a violent tragedy in Vanderbes's misfired sophomore novel (after Easter Island). Every one of the Olsons who gather on Thanksgiving Day, 2007, has issues. Matriarch Eleanor, adrift after years of ministering to a husband who never recovered from his Vietnam war experience, is flummoxed by her children's choices: her unmarried college professor daughter, Ginny, has just adopted a mute Indian girl, and son Douglas is up to his neck in the real estate bubble, prompting the ire of his wife, Denise, who can barely stand the ineptitude of Ginny's attempt at cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Then there's Kijo, who is out for revenge after one of Douglas's real estate deals gets his grandmother's home condemned. When Ginny's oven fails and the Olsen family decamps to Denise and Douglas's McMansion, the catastrophe that ensues will, of course, change and bind the lives of everyone involved. But without the love story, historical intrigue, and exotic locale of Easter Island, Vanderbes spins her wheels on a toothless Corrections-lite family saga that winds its way to an ever-so-unlikely big bang conclusion.
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In her second novel, Vanderbes (Easter Island, 2003) sets up a Thanksgiving Day showdown between a well-to-do family and the impoverished residents of a housing project. Anthropology professor and new mother Ginny Olson is hosting the Thanksgiving Day festivities for the first time. She has just returned from India, where she adopted a mute seven-year-old girl. Interactions with her family prove to be irritating as they lecture her on her disorganized hosting skills, and she lectures them on their woefully inadequate understanding of America’s bloody past, especially the genocidal overtones of the Thanksgiving holiday. The guests include her taciturn dad, her well-meaning but clueless mom, and her wealthy brother, whose overinvestment in an office project just as the real-estate downturn hit has made his wife one angry lady (her cold-eyed pragmatism provides much of the book’s entertainment value). A stove malfunction forces the family to move houses and sets them on an inevitable collision course with two young black men. Vanderbes lays on the cultural ironies a little too thickly in what is otherwise an inventively plotted, highly readable novel about white Americans’ overweening sense of entitlement. --Joanne Wilkinson