From Publishers Weekly
Shattuck's debut novel is a social comedy, with flashes of darker import, about an upper-crust Boston suburban family forced to come to terms with the pressures of contemporary life and the ways in which they succeed, or more frequently fail. Patriarch Jack Dunlap is a rigid, seemingly puritanical businessman whose stern eccentricities have driven his wife, Faith, out of the house and into a state of nervous exhaustion. Daughter Caroline, made of sterner stuff, is trying to get used to the family weirdness again after graduating from college and returning home to decide what to do with her life-which will probably not include continuing to see an old beau, pot-smoking Rock. Her little brother, Eliot, is attempting to come to terms with the loss of his beloved Colombian babysitter, Rosita, fired under mysterious circumstances. It is Rosita, a symbol of strength and resilience amid the flaky denizens of her adopted country, who becomes the center around which the anxieties and obsessions of the principals revolve, and she is perhaps too easy a symbol. Shattuck is an observant and graceful writer, and contrives some elegant and touching scenes, particularly as Faith begins to recover a sense of her womanhood with a charming French visitor. But the book, for all its virtues, feels excessively schematic, and various plot strands-like Caroline's involvement with a documentary filmmaker-are dropped too summarily. Blurbs compare it to the work of Richard Yates and John Cheever, but it has neither the somber anguish of the former or the comic, off-center elan of the latter.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Caroline Dunlap has graduated college and returned to her father's house in the genteel upper-class world of suburban Boston for lack of a better option. Her sensitive, 10-year-old brother, Eliot, is quietly launching a search for his baby-sitter, Rosita, who his father, Jack, summarily fired six months ago. Faith, Jack's ex-wife, who is still in the process of recovering from the nervous breakdown that precipitated the end of her marriage, is in town to see a play Eliot is starring in and visit some friends. The characters are all stuck in a sense, in need of a push to disrupt their apathy. For Caroline, the push comes in the form of Stephan, a handsome documentary director whose intentions might not be so noble; for Eliot, it is his quest for Rosita; for Faith, it is a charming Frenchman who romances her; and for Jack, it is a startling revelation about Rosita that will cause him to reexamine his future. Shattuck's debut is quiet and somewhat slow paced, but ultimately it's a funny and moving character study. Kristine HuntleyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved