A sprawling yet insular saga of two families of Puerto Rico's social and financial elite. The old-money Rivas de Santillana are sugar plantation owners with a penultimate generation of colorful women individualizing themselves within confined social roles. The Vernets are cement entrepreneurs whose scions are complex and deeply flawed men. Narrator Elvira tells the stories of her forebears, the fortunes and loves they gained and lost, and the stunning tragedies of the rich. But it is in the details--the small, bright, peculiar incidents of everyday life--that the novel truly shines. At the center of this fascinating, convoluted book is the troubled relationship between Elvira and her imposing mother, Clarissa.