cover image The Peacock Feast

The Peacock Feast

Lisa Gornick. FSG/Crichton, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-23054-8

Gornick (Louisa Meets Bear) braids the lives of three generations across a span of 100 years in this vivid novel. In 2013, Prudence Theet is 101, and she meets Grace O’Connor, her great-niece, for the first time. Prudence’s brother Randall had disappeared from his family at the age of 14, and Grace informs Prudence that he had a son. As the two women begin telling each other about their lives, Prudence reaches as far back as the early 1900s, when her parents worked for the famous designer/artist Louis C. Tiffany on Long Island. Prudence recalls Tiffany’s decision to destroy the section of breakwater that fronted his mansion, because local residents wished to reclaim it for public use, and his eccentric Peacock Feast in 1914, in which his children and other children presented roasted peacock to “men of genius”: “On each tray, there’s a peacock, its rainbow plumage... tangled with its porter’s long loose hair.” Grace’s memories are of life with her twin brother, Garcia, after they were born in a 1960s commune and abandoned by their parents to Grandfather Randall, who then raised them. As Grace and Prudence fill in gaps for one another, such as the details of Randall’s disappearance and subsequent life, a withheld memory reemerges from Prudence’s childhood experiences. Gornick’s prose is strong throughout; this is an intricately threaded story of family, secrets, loss, and closure. (Feb.)