Our Father

Marilyn French, Author Little Brown and Company $22.95 (450p) ISBN 978-0-316-29390-7
Four half-sisters, each the offspring of a different mother, gather at their father's palatial Massachusetts home and at the hospital where he lies dying of a stroke. Multimillionaire Stephen Cabot Upton is a famous elder statesman, advisor to presidents and eminence grise. To his children, however, he has been a remote, terrifying figure, withholding love from each of them and deliberately keeping them apart. Indeed, the youngest, the illegitimate daughter of his chicana housekeeper, has never been acknowledged by her father. In the course of this overlong novel, the sisters first express jealous rage and bitter resentment toward each other, then slowly move to acceptance, sisterly solidarity and love, as each experiences an epiphany about her past and future life. Meanwhile, it comes to light that their father raped and molested each of them during their childhood. As usual, French ( Her Mother's Daughter ) uses plot to explore the condition of women, to deplore their dependency on men and to illustrate the strengths of female bonding. Though the novel's beginning is intriguing, the sisters' emotional and psychological awakenings are too minutely detailed; their endless ruminations, revelations and insights eventually verge on bathos. After a melodramatic, ludicrous scene in which they confront their mute but conscious father and ``try'' him for his crimes of incest, the tension seeps out like air from a leaky balloon. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/03/1994
Release date: 01/01/1994
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