GORGEOUS LIES

Martha McPhee, Author, McPhee, Author . Harcourt $25 (336p) ISBN 978-0-15-100613-7

An offbeat writing style and poetic metaphors distinguish this crowded tale of a patriarch, his harem of lovers and the litters of offspring they produce, the follow-up to McPhee's well-received novel Bright Angel Time. Gestalt therapist Anton Furey is dying of pancreatic cancer, and the people closest to him gather at the New Jersey family estate, Chardin, and recall the emotional ups and downs of life with a womanizing dreamer and charismatic charmer. His children with ex-wife Agnes—insecure Nicholas, gentle Caroline, money-hungry Sofia, barely there Timothy and adopted Finny (son of Anton and an Italian maid)—are not fully sketched: some are given vivid cameos, while others fade into the background. The children of Anton's wife Eve from a previous marriage—cynical, headstrong Jane, model-perfect Julia and homely Kate—are better drawn and as flighty in their loyalty to their stepfather as he is in his choice of lovers. Youngest daughter Alice, the only child of Anton and Eve, is Anton's favorite for her mix of joie de vivre and sweet gravity. Like an anti–Brady Bunch, the members of the sprawling double family fluctuate in their alliances and affections over the 25 years of Eve and Anton's marriage. Their one common trait is their hunger for Anton's attention and approval. As the novel unfolds, Anton's unlikely past is revealed: his Texas childhood, his early stint in a Jesuit seminary and his grand passion for the communal haven of Chardin. His insatiable need for connection—particularly with women—can be repellant (as when he pursues one of his stepdaughters), but it is his infectious zest for life that drives this invigorating if convoluted novel. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/22/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
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Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-15-602882-0
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