Although the story revolves around the family of a California congressman who is involved in a 1980s sex scandal, it’s so much more than a scandal. As a result, this novel has caused me to look at the real scandals in a more human light, not as a CNN circus sideshow.
Dan Brath and his wife, Trina, have two teenage daughters when the congressman’s scandal breaks out. Jill is seventeen and Phoebe just thirteen. Trina deals with her husband’s infidelities in a few ways–some helpful, some not–and shows how a woman in her situation can still lead a dignified life, even if it takes years to get there.
Decades later Jill is a divorced realtor. Although the story is ultimately sad, I found myself laughing out loud when Jill is convinced her ex-husband is about to ask her back or when she spills coffee all over herself in a public spectacle at a cafe. She’s so human and sympathetic.
Phoebe, on the other hand, is a lost soul who feels betrayed by her family and cuts off all contact with them. She finds herself in Tokyo fulfilling the same role as her father’s teenage mistress all those years ago.
I love the San Francisco setting, especially Potrero Hill, which was the closest nice neighborhood to where I lived for a couple years in the 1990s. But I had no clue about San Francisco’s stairway streets. They’re definitely something to check out on my next visit. One could even do a walking tour of many of the places in this book–and see a side of San Francisco off the tourist path.
If I could change one thing about this book, I’d add a disclaimer at the beginning warning readers not to start this book on an empty stomach. The food descriptions are just too delicious to read when you’re hungry!