While seventy-seven year old Ike Robison is dying in his bedroom upstairs, his wife Anna defends the citadel of their marriage from the ill-considered, albeit loving invasion, of their three middle-aged daughters and twenty-three year old granddaughter. Helen, Claire and Susanna claim they have come to help their mother, Anna, and to cheer their father towards recuperation. Although, it appears to their mother that her daughters have arrived only to raid her refrigerator and to gripe and snipe at each other about their recollections of old rivalries.
Bright, fresh-faced Christine arrives and presents the family with a new set of problems - her impending pregnancy and forthcoming divorce. Anna, herself, is reflecting on her life. Her life has been difficult for Anna, her marriage to Ike harshly violent, uprooting and cold. Unburdened by sentiment, Anna acknowledges to herself that she is angry at her husband for abandoning her and that her daughters remain so dependent, even into their adulthood.
Despite the simmering anger and resentment which is directed at her husband, Anna has grown used to Ike and truly can't imagine her life without him. She is confronted by her own frailties, and the imminence of Ike's death has left her in a devastating conundrum about what she should do next. Anna ultimately achieves a quiet certainty about her right to what's left of her world.
I thought this was a very good book. It was an easy read for me, and even though nothing earth-shattering happened in the plot, At Paradise Gate by Jane Smiley was still a very pleasant read. This book was filled with moments of quiet introspection, rather than huge cliffhanger plot twists. The writing was beautiful and I give this book an A+! I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes contemporary fiction.