The Crossley Baby
looks at first to be a novel about a family, but it's really a portrait of a (very difficult) lady. The Crossley sisters grow up poor and smart in a small town on Long Island. Later, they disperse over 1980s Manhattan, inhabiting very different corners. Bridget, the oldest, arrives from her travels in Nepal with a hippie wardrobe and a spaced-out attitude. Fresh from Columbia, acerbic Jean becomes a successful corporate headhunter. And the youngest, Sunny, Harvard-educated and pursued by glamorous men, marries an idealistic Harlem landlord and becomes a stay-at-home mom. When Bridget dies during a routine surgery, Jean-in-a-suit and Sunny-in-a-minivan are left to duke it out over the custody of Bridget's baby daughter Jade. The family dynamics catch fire nicely, but the book belongs to Jean. Witty, brittle, married to a secretive man and almost pathologically incapable of any show of emotion, Jean is an unlikely--but very likable--protagonist. Its a surprising pleasure to navigate throught the world with her. Author Jacqueline Carey has a disjointed, clever, often funny voice perfectly suited to Jean's off-kilter view of the world. Here she is at church: "Because Catholics have to attend mass every week, they value efficiency above all. The challenge is to speed up the ceremony without letting a fast walk break into a run." In short, Jean gets all the good lines. Without compromising Jean's dignity or slipping into sentiment, Carey reveals the emotional core of a woman with all the warmth of an ice cube. This is tricky work, beautifully done. --Claire Dederer
From Publishers Weekly
The unexpected death of Bridget Crossley-the single mother of the eponymous baby-is the event that kicks this wry, quirky novel by Carey (Good Gossip) into gear. Make that low gear: narrative drive is not the author's strong suit. Opening in New York City in 1990, the story hinges on which of Bridget's two younger sisters will care for 10-month-old Jade: the childless, ambitious and rich Jean or the aptly named suburban mother, Sunny? Jean wants her, but Sunny thinks herself more suitable. Their battle is complicated by Jade's expected inheritance, the millions she should receive as a result of the malpractice suit over her mother's death. But Carey is more interested in character than plot: well over a third of the book is devoted to the backstories of the trio, who grew up on Long Island, raised mainly by their widowed father. As adults, the three sisters embody the range of choices for women of their generation: massage therapist Bridget is an East Village bohemian, Jean is haute yuppie, and Sunny went to Harvard but chose to become a stay-at-home mom. Yet the women are hardly typical or predictable. If the book is a little too cluttered with interior monologues, Carey is nonetheless an engaging and often funny writer ("Theirs had been a typical seventies family: one barely functioning parent, slouching teenagers picking at one another, bongs, an Irish setter missing a leg, bell-bottoms in odd rusty shades like a color TV gone bad"). Her sharp descriptions of the sisters' various milieus give the novel its piquancy.
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