Bridget, Jean, and Sunny Crossley grow up in modest circumstances on Long Island, and all end up in the New York City of the 1980s. Free spirit Bridget, the oldest, is a well-traveled, sometime massage therapist in the East Village. Outspoken Jean is a corporate headhunter in double-breasted power suits who lives in a gleaming Upper East Side tower. Harvard-educated Sunny, the youngest and sweetest sister, drifts from eligible boyfriend to eligible boyfriend until she falls for a Harlem real estate developer and starts a family. When Bridget dies unexpectedly during what should have been a routine operation, she leaves behind a ten-month-old girl named Jade. The big question becomes: Who should take the baby? The obvious and expert Sunny, or the never-at-home career woman Jean? The answer is, of course, more complicated than either sister could have anticipated.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
The unexpected death of Bridget Crossley-the single mother of the eponymous baby-is the event that kicks this wry, quirky novel by Carey (Good Gossip) into gear. Make that low gear: narrative drive is not the author's strong suit. Opening in New York City in 1990, the story hinges on which of Bridget's two younger sisters will care for 10-month-old Jade: the childless, ambitious and rich Jean or the aptly named suburban mother, Sunny? Jean wants her, but Sunny thinks herself more suitable. Their battle is complicated by Jade's expected inheritance, the millions she should receive as a result of the malpractice suit over her mother's death. But Carey is more interested in character than plot: well over a third of the book is devoted to the backstories of the trio, who grew up on Long Island, raised mainly by their widowed father. As adults, the three sisters embody the range of choices for women of their generation: massage therapist Bridget is an East Village bohemian, Jean is haute yuppie, and Sunny went to Harvard but chose to become a stay-at-home mom. Yet the women are hardly typical or predictable. If the book is a little too cluttered with interior monologues, Carey is nonetheless an engaging and often funny writer ("Theirs had been a typical seventies family: one barely functioning parent, slouching teenagers picking at one another, bongs, an Irish setter missing a leg, bell-bottoms in odd rusty shades like a color TV gone bad"). Her sharp descriptions of the sisters' various milieus give the novel its piquancy. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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June 27, 2004
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Excerpt from The Crossley Baby by Jacqueline Carey
The Cork Line The feuds were such a joke. The Crossley girls had laughed about them for years. Once upon a time their father had mentioned certain "disputes" shamefacedly, but later even he joined in the merriment. It certainly didn't matter to these three free-thinking, dope-smoking, miniskirted girls that a quarrel between heirs had broken up the original "Crossley's," one of the biggest jewelry businesses in Boston. Early photos made it look like a ratty old cigar box, anyway. And the girls relished details of other fights: Two maiden aunts had had a brick wall built down the center of their Victorian house in Dorchester, the better to avoid each other; back in County Cork, one Crossley and his widowed sister hadn't spoken for the last twenty years of their lives, although they slept in the same cottage and sat across the kitchen table from each other three times a day. There was actually a line drawn down the center of the table. Can you imagine! When the two younger sisters, Jean and Sunny, shared a bedroom back in high school, Jean laid a strip of masking tape across the middle of the floorboards and called it the "Cork Line," as in "I don't care if you do open the window as long as the air doesn't venture over the Cork Line," or, about a guy Sunny had met at the Paw Valley Post Office, "Just keep Mr. Dick on your side of the Cork Line." "I could swear I heard something just then," Sunny would say, turning the pages of a magazine with ostentatious languor. "But such a screechy sound couldn't have been human." Even oddball Bridget, the oldest, picked up on the term. As an adult, Jean would occasionally mention the fact that Bridget's bedroom had not only been hers alone, but had also been the biggest in the house. Bridget was generally too distracted to notice, but once she said, "I have a Cork Line running down the center of my soul!" Jean snickered, but Sunny grabbed Bridget and hugged her and cooed at her and tickled her ribs until Jean finally said, "Yuck. Let's keep this PG," and Sunny said, "Oh, you just can't stand it that I'm so much nicer than you are." The call, when it came, was between Jean and Sunny. It took place on December 18, 1990, shortly after lunch. Sunny wasn't planning to answer the phone; she was trying to figure out which cardboard carton held the bulk of the Christmas ornaments. She could find only a few of the most fragile, which had their own four-inch-square boxes tucked in among the holiday books and tapes. This was going to be the first Christmas since Sunny and her family had left the city. Bridget, who was scheduled to have a fibroid removed, would be coming up with her ten-month-old daughter, Jade, in a couple of days to recuperate a little before the twenty-fifth, and Sunny wanted to have put up as many decorations as possible beforehand. It helped that Sunny's new house looked like an old Christmas tin: lit-up mullioned windows, a wreath on the door, a dusting of snow, an embrace of spruce. Because the rooms were still nearly bare of furniture, nothing commonplace interfered with the holiday setting. The pungent, sappy odor of evergreen drifted upstairs and down, thanks to the Scotch pine branches tacked over the arch to the dining room, the Doug fir Sunny's husband had cut on their own property, the basket of pinecones by the fireplace. That afternoon the kids were going to help decorate a gingerbread house she'd made from a kit. Three different sets of friends were expected up from the city around the day itself. Lists in her little loopy handwriting were scattered everywhere: Presents still to buy. Tips to be handed out. And lots of food. Ingredients for the marinade, ingredients for the pie crust, ingredients for the cookie dough. Eggnog, Burgundy, and a cheap champagne for the mimosas on Christmas morning.