Go Ask Fannie

His three grown children love 81-year-old Murray Blaire, which doesn't stop him from knocking back a double gin and tonic as he awaits their arrival in Elisabeth Hyde's Go Ask Fannie (as in Farmer, the cookbook author). The distinctly different siblings are spending three days at Murray's New Hampshire farmhouse, and soon acting like the squabblety-budgets their long-deceased mother Lillian called them.

Bossy D.C. attorney Ruth, the oldest, nags George, the easygoing ICU nurse, and hopes to persuade Lizzie, the college English teacher and the youngest, to end her relationship with an older "friend with benefits." Always efficient, Ruth also plans to force Murray to confront his future. Lizzie had hoped the three of them would enjoy a peaceful weekend going through her mother's treasured Fannie Farmer cookbook, which precipitated the crisis: the "boyfriend" irreparably damaged the cookbook. Lizzie reacted with a kettle of boiling water, and Ruth envisions a potential lawsuit.

As the Blaire children bicker and Murray squirms out of retirement home discussions, Hyde (In the Heart of the Canyon) moves from 2016 and inserts "Part II, 1984," introducing Lillian and Daniel, a deceased brother. Foreshadowing hints at tragedy as the family rallies behind Murray's 1984 run for Congress and, indeed, his campaign ends one disastrous night. Returning to 2016, the plot becomes more meaningful through the lens of history, and the siblings' foibles understandable.

Their behaviors are often humorous, lightening the new sorrows that befall them. Eventually they share tolerance and affection, as their mother had envisioned they would, growing up to "turn to each other, lean on each other, love each other to the ends of the earth, and that she had had a hand in this." --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

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