cover image Marrying the Ketchups

Marrying the Ketchups

Jennifer Close. Knopf, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-525-65887-0

The death of a patriarch throws an Irish Chicago family into a tailspin in Close’s humdrum dramedy (after The Hopefuls). When the Sullivan clan suddenly loses patriarch Bud, family members begin systematically unraveling. The outcome of the 2016 presidential election makes things worse, and the Cubs’ World Series victory isn’t quite enough consolation. The story primarily revolves around two sisters, Bud’s grandchildren. There’s Gretchen, the singer for a New York City cover band, and her older, more domesticated sister, Jane, who increasingly suspects her husband of cheating. More engaging is the plight of the sisters’ good-natured cousin Teddy, the general manager of the burger joint Bud owned. Teddy yearns for his ex-boyfriend, who keeps showing up to have dinner at the restaurant, and the kind of romance that seems just out of reach. There’s also newly widowed Rose, in an assisted living facility, who must now face life without Bud. In the place of plot are the characters’ tribulations, played out in placid, heavily detailed chapters, as when Gretchen abandons hope of rock stardom and comes home, Teddy assesses his love life, and Jane reevaluates her marriage. It’s rough going, but Close manages to evoke the durable power of family. (Apr.)