Emma Richlers extraordinary fictional debut is the multilayered story of a middle child. Jemima Weiss, a neurotic, lovable loner and the third of five Weiss children, grew up fascinated with British commandos, American westerns, the Knights of the Round Table, bagels with cheddar on top, and, above all else, her family. In these seven episodes, which expand and circle back on one another to form a dense, rich impression of Jems world, she revisits her formative years and elaborates on her mythological views of her eccentric parents and siblings: her gruff Jewish father, whom she saw as a gunslinging cowboy; her prophetic, all-knowing mother, who had witchlike powers of discernment over her brood; her charismatic brother Jude, a foreign correspondent who remains Jems main object of affection; her ethereal younger sister, who becomes a surprising source of solidity and comfort in Jems adult life.
Through Jems ingenuous voice, charged with comedy and tension, we learn how each of these characters has come to represent for her a whole system of thought and feeling, and we experience at first hand the magic of a large, tight family, as well as its emotional perils. The triumph of the book is Jems sensibility itself, and the deeply satisfying intimacy we feel with her and her supporting cast as she progresses toward a tentative peace with herself, outside the cocoon of family.