Sifting through grandmother's things, siblings get to what matters

Ginger, eldest of the three Lawrence sisters, has a brisk plan for clearing out her late grandmother's seaside cottage — and her eye on a few choice items she wants to keep.

But, as she heads from her home in Savannah to St. Simon's Island off the Georgia coast, she congratulates herself that she didn't inherit one thing: what she calls "the Grandmother gene."

The Lawrence girls spent every summer with Grandma Lillian after their mother died, not long after the birth of youngest sister Rose. They adored Grandma and she doted on them, but she did have a sketchy marital history: It took her seven weddings to find the man of her dreams.

Two of the sisters seem to have the Grandmother gene: Rose is on her third husband, and middle sister Penny has her beat with five. But no multiple marriages for Ginger; she's still happy with her original spouse, college professor Michael, after 27 years.

In Angela Hunt's new novel, The Fine Art of Insincerity, though, things are not always what they seem.

When the sisters get together to clean out the cottage, finally sold a year after Lillian's death, it ought to be a girls' weekend of affectionate nostalgia, hard work and bonding, not to mention satisfaction at receiving a couple of hundred thousand dollars apiece from the sale. None of them is rich — Ginger is a choir director, Penny is a retail clerk, Rose runs an animal sanctuary — so the cash is a boon.

But Ginger's plans — Ginger is always the one with a plan, and her sisters are darn tired of it — go awry pretty quickly. Divvying up Grandma's things does not go smoothly, with Penny fighting Ginger over who gets the piano, even though Penny doesn't play, and Rose seemingly not interested in keeping anything but an old cookie jar.

There's much more going on beneath the surface, as Hunt reveals with alternating chapters from each sister's point of view.

Penny isn't content with husband No. 5, an utterly unromantic computer whiz who's pressuring her to have kids (unaware she's six years older than he thinks she is). In fact, she's hoping to wiggle out of housecleaning to meet her potential No. 6 over on nearby Jekyll Island.

Before the kitchen cabinets are emptied, Ginger's perceptions about her marriage will be completely upended by a single phone call. And Rose doesn't care about the disposition of pianos and cookie jars because she's planning to kill herself — although not because of marital woes (she loves her biker husband) but because of older, deeper secrets.

Several such secrets will be exposed as the sisters face a weekend of crises and surprises. Hunt does a skillful job of giving each sister a distinctive voice, and she leavens the emotional scenes with suspense and wry humor. Who goes home with the piano becomes much less important than remembering what their grandmother really taught them about love.

Colette Bancroft can be reached at cbancroft@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8435.

The Fine Art of Insincerity

By Angela Hunt

Howard/Simon & Schuster, 302 pages, $14.99

. If you go

Meet the author

Angela Hunt will be a featured author at the 19th annual St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading on Oct. 22 at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg; www.festivalofreading.com.

Sifting through grandmother's things, siblings get to what matters 10/08/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 8, 2011 5:30am]

© 2014 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...