This story of a dysfunctional family spans the decades from the early 70's to 2001. It starts out slowly and the first half of the novel, set on the North Shore of Long Island, is hard to put down. We are introduced to Alice, the daughter, who seems to be always waiting for her mother to return from one of her endless trips. Alice's father is a workoholic and she is very emotionally attached to her elusive brother, August. And then there's Charlotte - the selfish, irresponsible mother who is away from home for months at a time in order to avoid her children and her suffocating marriage.
The second half of the book takes place after Charlotte's death in a house fire. Alice and August grow further apart, and after her father's death, Alice travels to Mexico to find him and finally learns about the family's deep, dark secret and why her family behaved like they did as she was growing up. Although the author's descriptions of the town, the food, the people are vivid and beautifully descriptive, the second half of the book was somewhat boring and a less satisfying read for me. However, I look forward to reading her other books.